This podcast covers Lesson 4 of Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study by Melanie Newton.
God Works It for Good
Joseph’s long time of suffering and waiting for freedom is over. He’s not only released from his humble prison but exalted to the position of prime minister of Egypt, second only to the king. Then, one day, he recognizes his brothers standing in front of him. This encounter with the ones who rejected him and stole years of family life from him stirs up sadness in his heart. He remembers his distress all those years ago. He weeps privately. He feels the pain all over again. How will he move beyond the pain?
Moving beyond the pain
- Joseph has learned much about managing people over the years. He puts that to work in relating to his brothers. We don’t know the reasons Joseph had for the actions he took with them. Whatever his reasons, it gave him time to prepare his own heart so that he could respond rightly to them when he revealed himself.
- Joseph saw a greater purpose in the tragic circumstances of his life than just for himself. What his brothers did to him was horrible, evil. No doubt about it. But, Joseph had a choice. He could follow the pattern of anger, despair and self-pity. Or, he could trust God to do something on his behalf that would be good for him and bring God glory.
“Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” (Genesis 50:20, NET)
- God “intended it for a good purpose.” The Hebrew root word used there means “to weave together.” God worked it together for a good purpose (Romans 8:28). The fact that God can work things together for good doesn't mean that those things are good.
- God’s plan all along was to get Abraham’s descendants to Egypt where they would live for 400 years (Genesis 15). God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery. But, God didn’t do the evil. The brothers did. God took that situation and Joseph’s faith walk with Him and wove it to bring about His plan to save lives. God worked it for good. Just like a weaver does.
The gift of human freedom allows for evil choices
- Why does God let people do evil? Why doesn't He stop it if He is capable of doing so? The true answer to that is that God does stop evil all the time. Every day He is stopping evil.
- Why doesn't He stop all evil? To stop all evil would mean to stop all human freedom. The Bible teaches us that God takes our freedom and responsibility far more seriously than we do.
- We demand our freedom to do what we want to do. Then, when something bad happens, we blame God for letting it happen. God lets humans be free and responsible for what they do. We can't blame God for humans doing wrong.
- You don't have to have an answer for all bad things happening. In this world, all will not turn out well. When we are with Christ, we will have the whole story.
What to say and not say when evil things happen
- Caution #1: Don’t minimize the evil or the hurt. You can say to the victim of any violent incident, "That was terrible, and those people are responsible for what they did. But, God is bigger and greater. If you will trust Him, then one day, whether in this life or the next, you will see how He fulfilled that promise to work that bad thing into something good. You can respond by faith now when things aren't ideal, or you can keep being the bitter victim.”
- Caution #2: Don’t say, "I'm sure God has a plan or purpose for this.” Instead, say this: "I don't know why things happen in the world. I do know that God is good, that He loves you, that you can go to Him for comfort, and He will strengthen and help you. I know He is not finished with you, and He has a future for you."
- Caution #3: Don’t say, “God is in control.” The truth is that God is sovereign over all of human history and what He allows or doesn’t allow humans to do. But, the evil is still evil. God is not doing it. The key is to trust God whether you understand or not and to believe that God works it eventually for good for someone. You might not recognize it being for you.
- Caution #4: Don't encourage revenge. Revenge has no place in the gospel or in a Christian’s life. We are told not to repay anyone evil for evil, but leave room for God to enact justice. Justice will be done—whether in this life through the legal system or after death (Romans 12:20-21).
Here are 4 points to remember about this issue of God working all things for good:
- We live in a fallen, wicked, cursed world with suffering, evil and death. A broken world.
- God has chosen from the beginning to give human beings the freedom to act. When someone asks, "Why did this wicked thing happen?" Answer with, "An evil human being did this."
- God promises to accomplish a greater good in and for all people who trust in Him (8:29), conforming us to the image of His Son. Suffering is one of His tools to do that.
- We live in the last days of the old creation. Our great and powerful God will one day wrap up history and fix it. We live in the hope of this happening in our future.
To someone who is a casualty of this wicked world (cancer, death, rape, murder), try giving them this counsel: "I don't know if there is any answer to this. But, I do know that Jesus said, 'Come to Me, and I will give you rest.' If you go to Jesus Christ today, you will find comfort and rest from anxiety. The world is not always good, but God is always good. That's why you can trust Him."
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4, NASB).”
We can have hope because we have God with us. So, remember our lane markers for the race.
#1. Choose to persevere through every challenge.
#2. Count on God’s promise to give you hope.
#3. Let that hope sustain you through the rough-and-tumble of life.
#4. Celebrate the joyful reward.
Let Jesus satisfy your heart with hope so you can persevere through life.
Joyful Walk Bible Studies by Melanie Newton are available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.