25 Jan. 2015 Sunday
|Sermon: Dwelling In Your Presence||video||audio||ppt||doc|
Scripture Reading: Genesis 39:1-6;19-23
1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did,
4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.
6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
At the beginning of the New Year I read one article entitled “31 Questions you should ask yourself at the beginning of the New Year”. It is a year-long plan to help us with our spiritual growth, and one of the questions is: Last year what is your most remorseful thing and what is your plan this year about this? When I ponder over this, to my surprise, I realized if I had not complained or dismayed because of the environment around me, I would have been more fruitful last year. I hope that I can live in the presence of God and bear more fruits favored by God this year .
In fact, in my daily pastoral work, I notice that many of us are frustrated for not having a good environment: for eg have no good family lab environment, no good and considerate boss who knows our strength. We think the reason that we cannot live out a Christian life or experience the presence of God is because we do not have a good environment around us. Some even think that if we live in such a bad situation, that means God has already left us. People around these Christians may also mock them, “Where is the God you believe in? Why your God has not come to save you out of the painful settings?” Our bad attitude and awful behavior in bad situation have made these people believe that there is no God at all. How can we show them our God is with us even in bad situations and live out a good witness for God in bad situations? We like to say Immanuel, God is with us. But what does it mean in bad situations? The scriptures we read today may help us understand one aspect of “God’s presence”, and my topic is “Dwelling in Your Presence”.
Our main character today is Joseph, and in this chapter he is a slave, a prisoner and a young man being tempted. What he has lived out in this story is to use God’s power and sovereignty in the land of slaves, to stand firmly when being faced with temptation and to have freedom when being prisoned.
It is God who has made all these impossible things possible for Joseph. God dwells with Joseph all the time and helped him achieve all these goals. Let us explore deeper and see how God has dwelled with Joseph.
In Genesis 37 we know that Joseph’s brothers envied him and almost killed him. One brother felt uneasy so they finally made a decision to sell him. Joseph was sold to Egypt and became a slave in the home of Pharaoh’s captain of the Guard. The captain’s wife tempted Joseph to sleep with her. Joseph rejected and was put into prison. Reading Joseph’s stories we can see that although Joseph is a man called by God and empowered by God with visions, his situation is awful. Actually so far his situation has been terrible and getting worse and worse.
He once was a beloved son of his father, but now he was a slave and a prisoner. It seems that all these bad things happened on him are not his fault but put on him by others. Many of us would have asked, “Why me God?” How did Joseph face this situation?
If we read more carefully we can see one fact: there is no detailed description of the awful and bad situation of Joseph as a slave or prisoner, and there is no description of the bitterness, hatred, complaints of Joseph about his bad situation. In other words, we cannot find any hint that Joseph is complaining about this environment or his bad luck. On the contrary, the presence of God has been highlighted and repeated in the Scripture:
2-4:“The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.”(Gen. 39:2-4)
39:21-23 The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Joseph was sold and became a slave, and later was wronged and put in prison. Bad things came upon him one by one, and each time his situation is getting worse. But God has been with him all the time. God did not change his situation by saving him from being sold, or by removing him out of prison. But by being with Joseph God has made him find favor in the eyes of the Egyptian master and the prison warder. In this way, Joseph was able to help his master to gain success and favor in front of God. By being with God and dwelling in God’s presence, Joseph not only helped himself but also brought blessings to his master. As a slave and a prisoner, could be a vessel of God’s glory and blessing, how amazing!
The point is: God’s dwelling with us may not to change our situation but empower us to succeed in the any kind of situation. God gives us courage, wisdom and to do outstanding things. God can make use of all kinds of situations in our life to shape our character and to make us bring blessings to others family, company, school or community. We can let other see God’s presence and glory in us through our way of living in bad situations.
What we have to believe is that God is in control of all situations and God is with us in all situations! The situation should not be our master controlling our mood. God is! God is with us all the time, and things happened in our lives are not in vain if we can work with God. God can make use of our situations, especially the bad situations to make us grow in spirit and faith. God can prepare us in such bad situations so that we can be used by God to help others when they are in bad situations. By exploring and understanding the presence of God and by believing that God is with us even in the bad situations, we can be molded by God into a better shape. Joseph’s story has told us that to dwell in God’s presence in all kinds of situation is critical!
Then, how can we dwell in God’s presence? Or how do we know that God is with us?
Firstly, stop complaining your environment or doubting the presence of God.
Generally when we are wronged or mistreated by others, we respond with complaints and bitter words. We even suspect the faithfulness of God. We know the story of 祥林嫂, who keeps complaining and talking about the things happened in the past whenever she met someone. We’d batter stop complaining but keep communicating to God pray to God for this power. Look up to God for God’s grace and healing. Reading God’s words and meditate on God’s it and apply it into your own life . Now, take a minute and check what you are complaining today. Is there anything that can help you stop complaining? Has anything make you suspect God’s faithfulness today? Or is that anything you need to stop doing that you may regain your faith in God today or this week?
Secondly, we should rely God’s promise and have hope in tomorrow. God’s promise is the hope and light in the darkness. I trust that it is the dream Joseph had in his childhood that has accompanied Joseph in every dark and hopeless night. Joseph chose to hold fast to that dream and promise. Instead of complaining, Joseph accepted the reality and kept the dream in his heart. He never ceased holding his dream and believed in God’s faithfulness. It is this faith that he could be sober and find a way out of the bad situation.
Thirdly, focus on what you need to do at present. The presence of God brings Joseph courage and wisdom to face his situation. He is not a day-dreamer any more but a practical person who does things with full heart. It is not easy to run the master’s household or the prison, but with God’s presence Joseph is able to run them well. Working hard is necessary for anyone who wants to change their situations. Bearing in mind the vision and God’s promise, one still needs to work hard and be prepared. Joseph made good use of the bad situation with the help of God. He prepared himself well in the bad situations and later became the minister and saved his family and other people in the famine. God will make the bad things into a good plan if you work step by step with God. If you stop complaining, have faith in God’s presence and focus on your present situation and work on it, you will understand God’s plan and God’s amazing grace after you walk out of the bad situation.
Standing at the beginning of the New Year, it is important and helpful to think about this theme, dwelling in God’s presence. There will be ups and downs in your life this year. To dwell in God’s presence is not to remove the bad situation but to strengthen you through the bad situation. Are you ready to believe in God’s faithfulness? Are you going to remember that God is with you all the time? Remember Joseph’s story. Joseph not only lived out a good witness for God but also bear the witness for God’s kingdom, bringing blessings to others. In any kind of situations, do not only complain but focus on your situation and trust in God’s presence. Pray to God for power and wisdom so that you may work with God and prepare yourself for the goodness of the others through the bad environment. The bad environment may help you grow in faith and also make you a good witness of God’s glory. Others may see God’s grace in you. God is with you, all the time, and God is good, all the time! Amen!