Test before Testimony

Joseph was busy as he kept Potiphar’s household running well. He had Potiphar’s favor, and most likely the favor of all who were in his household, including Potiphar’s wife. Favor soon turned to lust and Potiphar’s wife demanded that he sleep with her.

Joseph was working hard with little time for himself, didn’t he deserve some pleasure? After all, she was enticing him and making herself very available. No one would ever know. With the favor of all who were in the household, nobody would tell Potiphar, and besides that, his family was far away, they would never know.

How many things have I done because I felt justified?

What have I done out of blaming others?

What choices have I made because, “No one will ever know?”

Joseph could have chosen any one of these responses.

“But Joseph refused. Look, he told her, My master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” Genesis 39:8-9

Joseph looked beyond himself, beyond his position, beyond others, and saw the big picture. He recognized who he was, what had been entrusted to him, and how great a sin against God it would be. He stood for his convictions and didn’t waver no matter how much she pressured him.

Then one day…

With no one around, Potiphar’s wife approached Joseph. She grabbed him by his robe and demanded him to sleep with her. Joseph tore himself away, leaving his robe in her hands, and ran from the house.

Finding herself with his robe in her hands she called out to her servants and told them that Joseph had come to her room to rape her. She told them that her scream sent Joseph running, but in his hurry he left his robe.

She repeated her story to her husband when he came home, showing him Joseph’s robe to prove it. Potiphar was furious when he heard what happened to his wife, how Joseph had treated her. He took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held.

Falsely accused!

No chance to defend himself.

No witnesses to prove him innocent.

Joseph had been thrown down into a pit.

Joseph had gone down to Egypt.

Joseph was sold down as a slave.

Joseph was taken down into a prison.

Once again Joseph found himself stripped of his robe and thrown down.

“Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with fetters and placed his neck in a iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” Psalm 105:17b-19

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:3-4

Character tested…

Faith tested…

Before every testimony there is a test.

As with tests in school, God’s tests come in all shapes and sizes. The purposes of God tests are to test your character and your faith. They are intended for your good; to refine and improve your character, to stretch and increase your faith. And because God tests are intended for your good, even when you fail, there is always opportunity to take the test again. And just like any test, the more you go over the material, the better you understand what is being taught.

Joseph was given many tests with similar material. He was faced with jealousy, hatred, greed, lust, blame. With each stripping of his robe, and each throwing down he received, Joseph was faced with the battle of his flesh and the battle of his soul. The choice to defend self, or to die to self. The choice to doubt God or to trust God.

The battlefield is in the mind.

God had given Joseph two dreams showing him lifted up, while others bowed down before him. Yet, there he was, down in a prison.

Throughout my life I have faced all sorts of tests where my character and my faith were tested. I’m sure I have passed some tests, but I know I have failed many. I have justified my answers. I have blamed others for my answers. And I have answered questions believing that no one would know. I have focused on myself, defended myself, and I have relied on my own understanding, with no thought of the bigger picture or the good that was intended.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12

But, praise God for His amazing grace! God is for me and has allowed me to take some tests over and over. The Holy Spirit has gently instructed me and guided me into God’s truth. He has opened my eyes to see the lies I believed and the tests I have failed because of them. He has replaced those lies with His truth and that has made all the difference in the world! Knowing His truth by studying His word has helped me to understand His ways, to die to self, trust God, and therefore I have actually passed some tests!

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, says the Lord. And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

“Father, thank You for what You have taught me about the purposes of the tests I  face. Though I haven’t always been aware before, I see now how they have been intended for my good; to refine my character, and to increase my faith. Because You are for me and Your ways are beyond anything I could ever imagine I choose to trust You no matter what test I face. Thank You for this example of Joseph that I can learn from; that no matter how many tests I face, no matter how impossible my dreams may seem, there is a bigger picture. When I keep my eyes on You and trust You I will come through the test with greater character, increased faith, and with a testimony that will give glory and praise to You!”

Purpose in the Far Away Land

 

Joseph’s unexpected journey brought him to the far away land of Egypt.

Once Joseph arrived in Egypt he was bought by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, captain of the Guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  Joseph, an Israelite, of the chosen people of God, was now a slave in a pagan country. He found himself in a far away land, away from everything and everyone he knew. He was stripped of his identity and sold into a life of service. The teen-age boy who proudly wore the robe his father gave him, the one who tattled on his brothers when he checked on them in the fields, the dreamer who had been given two amazing dreams which he passionately described to his family; this teen-age boy was now a slave with no rights of his own. His only purpose was to serve the one who bought him, to give his all for the sake of the one who owned him. To die to self and to live for his master.

Satan is a liar and he came after Joseph to steal his identity, and to destroy the dreams God had given him. The pit experience was meant to harbor anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness towards his brothers. The unexpected journey was meant for Joseph to wallow in self-pity, fear the unknown, and to doubt God. And now slavery in a far away land was sure to cause Joseph to forget who he was, to doubt God, and to give up on his dreams.

But God…

God was for Joseph! God had a destiny for Joseph to fulfill, and nothing the enemy brought against Joseph could stop the plan of God. God loves His people. He promises to never leave them or forsake them, no matter how far away they may be.  Even in a far away land…

“The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing – except what kind of food to eat!” Genesis 39:2-6

As with Joseph, you have an enemy that wants to steal, kill, and destroy you and your dreams.

Jesus said, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a

The enemy will accesses the offense of others around you to plant seeds of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness in your heart. He looks for opportunities to plant fear, lies, and doubt in your mind. His plan is to strip you of knowing who you are as God’s child and to cause you to doubt God and give up on the dreams He has given you.

But, that is why this story of Joseph is so encouraging, because you can see that God gives grace to serve no matter what position you may be in. As a child of God you have God’s favor and blessing that others can see and promotion will come. You can see the big picture of how God worked all the difficulties together for Joseph’s good and for the good of many.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Though he was a slave, the favor of God was on him. The favor and blessing of God brought promotion so that even in his far away land, with no identity and no hope of his dreams being fulfilled, Joseph thrived and succeeded in all he did.

Though he was overwhelmed with all the work and the responsibility of Potiphar’s entire household, he was being prepared and equipped for greater responsibility yet to come.

Each time Joseph denied himself and did the will of his master, he was being humbled for it is the humble that God will exalt in due time.

You may wonder how you ever arrived in your far away land, and what purpose it could ever hold. You may be facing challenges that are beyond your ability, beyond your understanding. You may be doing menial jobs that don’t seem to have any significance at all. You may need to deny yourself on behalf of the needs of those around you. You may need to let go of things that you love, things you love more than God. You may resent your far away land because it seems to be keeping you from realizing your God-given dreams.

The far away land has great purpose for the destiny God has for you. When God gives dreams and desires they are way beyond your own ability, your own figuring out. They can only be fulfilled in God’s ways and in His time. The time between receiving the dream and the fulfillment of the dream is often filled with opportunities to be humbled, purified, and prepared. This time between is necessary. It is just as important as the fulfillment of the dream.

It is how you face the difficulties in the far away land that will make the difference of seeing your dream fulfilled or abandoned.

No matter what far away place you may find yourself, take courage from this story of Joseph. Though the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy…Jesus said,

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10b

Prayer –

Oh Lord, Your word says that You have a rich and satisfying life for me. Right now I feel as though I’m in a far away land. The difficulties are way beyond what I can handle and it is so hard to take my eyes off myself and put them on You. The enemy has been stealing the truth of who I am in You and the dreams You have given me. I choose to look to You, to listen to Your truth, and to receive the grace You have for me even in this difficult place. Please give me wisdom and knowledge for the difficulties I face. Please give me grace to do the insignificant jobs that seem so meaningless. Lord, you know how hard it is for me to die to self, I ask Your Holy Spirit to empower me to do the impossible. And talking about the impossible, Lord You know the things I love, those things that distract me, those things that I can’t do without. Those things that interfere with my time with You. Even those people I have made an idol, because I go to them instead of to You. Lord, please forgive me for putting these things before You. I choose to lay them down so that I will lift You up. Lord, if Your grace was enough for Joseph in his far away land, then I trust that Your grace is enough for the things I am facing today. Thank You for Your favor and blessing upon me, and in this place the enemy meant for harm, I trust You are working everything together for good. Amen

 

Is God’s Timing Always Perfect?

A week and a half ago I was returning from visiting my Mother. She lives in Pennsylvania, about two hours away. We had spent the day having lunch, running errands, and talking together. I had just set out on my expected journey home and was on the road for about fifteen minutes when I was hit hard from the rear. I was stopped in a line of traffic while a car several cars ahead of me was waiting to make a left turn. The driver behind me never hit her breaks, rear ended me, pushed me forward, swiped my passenger side, then slammed into a telephone pole. Thankfully I was able to stop my car before hitting the car in front of me. I sat in my car, shaking for several minutes, and my first call was to Mark, my second was 911, and then my mind began to explore different responses.

I was suddenly sent on an unexpected journey, one I didn’t determine, but now I needed to determine my thoughts.

Sitting in my car, body shaking, I was faced with the choice to go into a place of fear and self-pity, or to consider it as something the Lord intended for good. In that moment there was a battle going on between my flesh and my spirit. Where would my thoughts land?

“My new car!”

“Why didn’t she stop! What’s wrong with her!”

“God, I always thought that Your timing was perfect. But now, if I had left one minute earlier, or one minute later I wouldn’t have been “that car.”

“God, is Your timing always perfect?”

Then I remembered this blog…

This theme…What the enemy means for harm, God intends for good.

Do I really believe what I have been writing? Do I really believe though I can’t determine my unexpected journeys, I can determine my thoughts?

Yes, this is what I believe…

“Ok, yes, it’s my first new car. The one I park far away from other cars in parking lots so I don’t get dinged. It is just a car, it can be fixed.”

“I have no idea why she hit me, but that’s what makes accidents. How many times have I been distracted and almost caused an accident? I know she didn’t wake up that morning with the intention of hitting a nice red Subaru.”

Thankfully the Lord gave me compassion for the other driver as soon as I saw how hurting she was, she took two hard impacts and her airbag never inflated. God has given me incredible grace to pray for her and I have continued to pray that God would reveal Himself to her and bring quick and complete healing.

“God, I’ve always considered Your timing perfect. I’ve always believed You are concerned about every detail of my life.” It was then I realized that I have only thought of God’s timing as perfect when something good has happened. Like the time I was several minutes from the store when I remembered I had forgotten an important item. I turned around and as soon as I entered the store I ran into a friend I needed to see. “God, Your timing is perfect!”

Or the times I get all the green lights when I’m running late, when I get chosen to be the first customer when a new register opens up, when I get the last item on the shelf. These “perfect timing” experiences bring thanks and praise to God. But now, when the “perfect timing” brought harm, do I thank and praise God? I can’t say that I praised and thanked God, but by taking my focus off myself and looking to God my thoughts did begin to change.

Yes, I was “that car.” I was in “that place” at “that time.” But I’m not going to give in to the harm that the enemy would want for me. He would want to bring fear, blame, and doubt to my mind. These thoughts would only keep me in a place of self…self-focus and self-pity. These thoughts would have affected my words. I would have spoken fear over myself, blame toward the other driver, doubt of the goodness of God. My words would have affected those around me, spreading fear, blame, and doubt. This accident could have marked me with harm. But, praise God, my thoughts didn’t stay there. By God’s grace I was able to take those thoughts captive and line them up with His truth. I chose to fear God, and not my loss. I chose to turn blame to compassion. I chose to trust in God’s perfect timing, no matter what. And do you know what? I saw so much good in the smallest, yet amazing ways!

My sister-in-law dropped everything, came and stayed with me in the hospital while I was checked. It was so good to talk with her instead of just being there by myself.

My husband, Mark, immediately drove the two hours, met up with us, and took us out to a really good Italian restaurant.

Mark and I stayed in an incredibly good Inn that night, with a super good firm mattress, that was good for my back and neck.

My son and daughter-in-law took good care of my daughter who had just come home from school to an empty house for the first time.

Because of the change of schedule, my son and daughter spent a good day together in NYC.

Mark and I enjoyed a wonderfully good lunch together on our way home.

These may sound trite. These may seem it’s all about my comfort, but I truly believe that if my mind was focused on myself; if my thoughts were filled with fear, blame, and doubt, I wouldn’t have enjoyed these good things, I wouldn’t have appreciated them, and my words and attitude would have affected me and everyone around me.

This unexpected journey isn’t over yet as I wait for my car to be fixed. I admit sometimes my thoughts still want to go to self. That is when I need to remind myself of God’s goodness and faithfulness, and trust that though it was unexpected to me, He knew about it before the beginning of time. There is never anything unexpected to God and as Jesus said to Peter, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 It comforts me to know that Jesus intercedes for me and that it is His desire that this unexpected journey increases my faith so that I can encourage others as well.

 

 

 

 

 

An Unexpected Journey

After throwing Joseph into the pit to die, Joseph’s brothers sat down to eat. Their jealousy and hatred was appeased as they did away with him. Life could go on now without the strife of seeing their brother in his colorful robe receiving the favor of their father. They would no longer hear the dreams Joseph was having of them bowing down in worship of him. They had removed the object of their jealousy, but deep within there was an uneasiness.

God’s timing is perfect, even for an unexpected journey.

Sitting there eating their lunch conflicted with the victory of revenge and the weight of guilt his brothers saw a caravan in the distance coming towards them. This time his brother, Judah, spoke up, “What will we gain by killing our brother? We’d have to cover up the crime. Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother – our own flesh and blood!” His brothers agreed and when the caravan came by Joseph’s brothers pulled him from the pit and sold him for twenty pieces of silver. And so Joseph was sent on an unexpected journey to Egypt.

The jealousy and hatred of Joseph’s brothers was meant to kill Joseph. The enemy was accessing his brothers to harm Joseph and to keep the dreams God had for Joseph from being fulfilled. Joseph wasn’t killed, but being sold as a slave was almost as bad. Not only had Joseph been stripped of his father’s robe, he was taken away from his father, away from his home, and from everything familiar.

He was on his way to a different country,

a different culture,

a different language.

He was stripped of his identity; his name, his position, his job,

on his way to be sold as a slave.

Once again Joseph found himself rejected and alone. Again I wonder, “What was Joseph thinking as he travelled with that caravan down to Egypt?” “What were the thoughts running through his mind?” “What were the prayers he was praying to God?”

“What did I ever do to deserve this?”

“Just wait until I get back at my brothers! I’ll show them!”

“I’ll never see my family again, I’m so alone.”

“My dreams will never come true now?”

“God, I don’t understand what is happening, what will happen to me in Egypt?”

“God, thank You for Your protection over me, though my brothers wanted to kill me, I am still alive.”

“God, though I may never see my family again, I know You are always with me, You will never leave me”

“God, I trust You, and if those dreams were from You I believe they will come true in Your time and in Your way.”

Think about your life journeys. Have there been some journeys that you thought you would never travel? Have there been journeys that others have put you on because of jealousy, or hatred? As in the bottom of a pit; when life sends you on an unexpected journey, your thoughts have a powerful affect on who you become along that journey, and who you are at the journey’s end.

You can’t always determine the pits you are thrown into,

and you can’t always determine the journeys you find yourself on,

but you can determine your thoughts while you are there.

While pit experiences may seem hopeless, with no way out, unexpected journeys also bring opportunity for fear and self-pity. Fear of the unknown can paralyze. Self-pity can breed unforgiveness, and bitterness which result in loneliness and isolation. The enemy of your soul can use an unexpected journey to rob your identity, kill your dreams, and destroy your destiny.

But, once again as in the bottom of a pit, if you choose to turn your focus to God and fear Him and trust Him, your unexpected journey will be worked together for your good. An unexpected journey is intended to define you as God created you to be, give you experience needed for your dreams to be fulfilled, and to lead you into the destiny God has for you.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Isaiah 43:1-3

 

Ever found yourself in a pit?

Joseph found himself in the bottom of a pit that day. God intervened through his brother Rueben who convinced his brothers not to kill Joseph, but to throw him into a pit to die. Rueben secretly planned to come and rescue Joseph.

Not knowing of his brother, Rueben’s, plan, Joseph found himself stripped of his robe and left for dead at the bottom of a pit. All the love of his father, Jacob, couldn’t save Joseph from the hatred and rejection of his brothers. All the favor of his father couldn’t lift him out of the pit he was in. Was this the end of Joseph, was this the death of his dreams? His brothers thought so.

Pit experiences are life-changing. Depending on the type of fear determines whether harm or good will come from it. The jealousy, hatred, and rejection of his brothers put Joseph in a place that looked hopeless. A place that Joseph couldn’t get out of himself. A place that his father, the one who loved him and cared for him, didn’t know about. What was going through Joseph’s mind? What were his thoughts about his brothers? About his father? About himself? About his dreams? Pit experiences give opportunity for the enemy to use his number one strategy against you, fear. Fear of the hurt and rejection of others. Fear of being cut off from those who love you. Fear of the loss of dreams. Fear of what will happen to you. Fear from the enemy consumes your thinking and results in self-pity. Self-pity in the bottom of a pit will only bring you harm. Consumed with self, you see things through your flesh, your understanding, your comfort, and your agendas. Hurt and rejection bring bitterness and unforgiveness. Being cut off from the love and favor of others can bring doubts that God loves you and is taking care of you. Loss of dreams can bring disappointment and hopelessness. Fear of the future brings worry and anxiety. If you give in to the fear of the enemy, consumed with self-pity, and believe the lies of the enemy as truth, though your brothers may pull you from the pit, you will come up changed. The fear of your pit experience will mark you for harm.

At the bottom of a pit you can either look at yourself or you can look up to God. If you choose not to give into the fear of the enemy, but choose instead to fear the Lord your pit experience will have a completely different outcome. When faced with fear you can cry out to God, your Creator, the One who loves you and promises to never leave you or forsake you, even at the bottom of a pit. The fear of the Lord will keep your focus off of self and on the Lord. It will remind you of God’s promises, that He is for you, that nothing can ever separate you from His love, that He has a hope and a future for you. This fear of the Lord, this focus on Him and on His promises, and believing His truths will bring a completely different perspective to your pit experience. A pit experience with the fear of the Lord allows God to do a deep work in you that requires your full attention. With humility you look up to God and cry out to Him. With a sincere heart you hear and receive His counsel. In brokenness and repentance you ask His forgiveness of anything that you have done that landed you in the pit. And with thanksgiving you rejoice in the ways God revealed Himself at the bottom of the pit and for how He has used the pit for your good. After being raised from the pit with the fear of the Lord your perspective of yourself and of those who put you in the pit will also have changed. The fear of the Lord will mark you for good!

Joseph wasn’t left in the pit for too long that day, but I believe it was long enough to get Joseph’s attention and to teach him some heart lessons before he began a journey that God had planned for him. He could no longer rely on his earthly father’s love and favor. He was beginning a journey that would separate him form everything he knew and loved. All the comfort and familiarity of home was soon to be behind him. But, his God, the One who loved him and favored him more than anyone ever could, had a destiny for him to follow. No jealousy, hatred, or rejection could keep God’s dreams from being fulfilled.

There was a pit experience I went through where I learned about the difference of my focus. I had recently gone through what I called “inner healing” with a woman who had a ministry to those who desired freedom from the strongholds of the enemy. Through her ministry the Holy Spirit revealed the doors I had opened to the enemy, I confessed my sin, received Christ’s forgiveness, and closed those doors in Jesus’ name. I was forever changed and some time later I felt as though God was leading me to a similar ministry. Several other women and I joined  together and discussed and prayed about beginning a ministry. We initially had the support of our pastor, but when it came time to put everything together we were told that it wasn’t accepted. I was devastated. I found myself at the bottom of a pit. I felt rejected. I felt the love and favor I once had was taken away. The dream of a ministry that was life-changing for me that I wanted for others was snatched away. My eyes were on me and I had all kinds of reasons why that ministry should be accepted. I found myself obsessed with thinking about all the reasons why I was right and my pastor was wrong. There was a battle of chaos going on in my mind. What I discovered after several weeks of this was that as long as I was thinking thoughts about me, how I felt, what I believed…my mind was in chaos. When I allowed my mind to consider what my pastor said I had peace. My mind was at rest. It totally didn’t make sense to me at the time because I was convinced I was right. But peace finally won. I realized chaos is not from God. If my thoughts, my ways, my reasons only brought chaos, then the ministry wasn’t of God. If submitting to my pastor brought peace and rest, than that was the answer God had for me. My flesh didn’t like the answer. I knew there were others that could benefit from that ministry, but in hind sight I see the wisdom of God. It wasn’t His time, it wasn’t His way. I had a lot more to learn and I am thankful for that pit experience because the lesson I learned from it has been for my good.

What pit experiences have you had? Have they brought you harm or have they brought you good? If you have been harmed by any fears you experienced in the pit, it’s never too late to look to God to find the truth He has for you to learn. Just humbly look up to Him and ask Him to show you any lie, any fear that was not from Him. Ask Him to reveal any unforgiveness or bitterness towards any one who may have thrown you into the pit. Confess any doubt of God’s love, any worry, or anxiety you have as a result of the pit. Confess your sin and ask God’s forgiveness. He will raise you up from the pit and set you on the journey to fulfill the dreams He has for you.

Matt Redman has a great song I encourage you to listen to; It is Well With My Soul.
http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=WZGZY7NX