Ever considered why it had to be this way? Ever considered what it would have taken for things to work out had the adversity never happened? Ever considered during the adversity, how is this going to be used for good? Ever considered during the adversity the greater purpose for it? Ever gotten to the place where you are looking forward to the outcome because you are going through adversity?
These questions make me remember a tough time in my career. I time where I was cheated, deceived, and mistreated. A time where I was being setup for a fall. Know what I learned? I learned the power of forgiveness! Know how that was good? It allowed me to speak truth in love to others around me who were going through similar challenges. Some were going through depression, some were taking medication, some were getting angry, and some were being too hard on themselves or taking it out on the wrong people or things. It gave me a key to help open their locks and free them from their chains. It brought people into my life who were going through similar issues where I could speak hope, life, and truth into their lives through the power of forgiveness. Even later when a new time of adversity appeared, this time my first response was forgiveness which allowed God to prepare me for what was yet to come, the new chapter in my life, the second half. It even setup through my morning readings times to hear a message to get out of the boat. Because I forgave, I was able to hear and be obedient. Because I forgave, I was able to prepare others for my departure as well as to live by example what God was speaking into my life. Because I forgave, God was able to speak to me without needing to deal with the walls or the anger or the frustration which had gone up in the first example. It took month that first time adversity showed up for me to turn to God and to forgive them. This time it was immediate!
So what are you dealing with today? What are you facing? Do you need hope in the midst of it all? Do you know where to turn? Do you know what to do? Don’t give up on God because He hasn’t given up on you! He didn’t give up on me that first time! (even though I wasn’t obeying him … at least in the beginning before I got to the end of my rope and the end of what I could handle and rock bottom) He didn’t give up on me the next time! (even when I did obey immediately and had some tough times)
Today’s reading continues with the story from the last few days speaking about Joseph’s adversity. From great dreams to being sold by his brothers to getting thrown in prison for holding up his righteousness and character and not being with his master’s wife to interpreting dreams and being forgotten by the butler to being called out to interpret for pharaoh to being raised up to be second in command of all of Egypt to saving the nation through rationing to finding himself face to face with his brothers again to today’s part of the story…
Joseph Tests His Brothers
1Then he commanded the one over his household saying, “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they are able to carry and put money in the opening of each man’s sack.
2Put my cup, the silver cup, in the opening of the sack of the youngest along with his grain money.” So he did as Joseph told him.
3When the morning dawned, the men were sent off, they and their donkeys.
4They left the city and did not get far, when Joseph said to the one over his household, “Get up, go after the men. When you catch up to them, say to them, “Why have you repaid evil for good?
5Isn’t this the one from which my lord drinks? He even uses it especially to discern by divination. What you’ve done is evil!”
6So he caught up to them and spoke these words to them.
7They said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do such a thing as this.
8Look, the money we found in the opening of our bags, we brought back to you from the land of Canaan. So how could we steal silver or gold from your lord’s house?
9Whoever among your servants is found with it, let him die! And we, we’ll also be my lord’s slaves.”
10“Even now let it be according to your words,” he said. “The one with whom it is found shall be my slave. But the rest of you shall be innocent.”
11Then each man quickly lowered his sack to the ground and each man opened his sack.
12He searched them beginning with the eldest and finishing with the youngest, and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.
13Then they tore their clothing, and each one loaded up his donkey and they returned to the city.
14When Judah and his brothers entered Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell to the ground before him.
15“What’s this deed you’ve done?” Joseph said to them, “Didn’t you know that a man like me can discern by divination?”
16Then Judah said, “What can we say to my lord? What can we speak? How can we justify ourselves? God has exposed your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—both we as well as the one in whose hand the cup was found.”
17But he said, “Far be it from me to do this. The one in whose hand the cup was found—he will be my slave. But you, go up to your father in peace.”
Judah Pleads for Benjamin
18Then Judah approached him and said, “I beg your pardon, my lord. Please let your servant say a word in my lord’s ears, and don’t be angry with your servant, since you are like Pharaoh.
19My lord asked his servants saying, ‘Do you have a father or a brother?’
20So we said to my lord, ‘We have a father who is old, a child born to him of his old age is young. Now his brother is dead, so he is the only one of his mother’s children left, and his father loves him.’
21Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me so that I can look at him.’
22But we said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father. If he were to leave his father, he would die.’
23Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you won’t see my face again.’
24“Now when we went up to your servant, my father, we told him my lord’s words.
25Then our father said, ‘Go back, buy us a little grain for food.’
26So we said, ‘We won’t go down unless we have our youngest brother with us—then we’ll go down. For we won’t see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’
27“Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You yourselves know that my wife bore me two sons.
28One went out from me, so I said, “He must have been torn to shreds,” and I haven’t seen him since.
29And if you also take this one away from before me and an accident happens to him, then you’ll bring my grey hair down to the evil of Sheol.’
30“Now if I come to your servant my father and the boy isn’t with us, since his life is bound to his life,
31when he sees that the boy is no more, he’ll die. Then your servants will bring the grey hair of your servant our father down to Sheol in grief.
32For your servant became pledge for the boy with my father saying, ‘If I don’t bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before my father all my days.’
33So now, please let your servant remain as my lord’s slave in the boy’s place, and let the boy go up with his brothers.
34For how can I go up to my father and the boy is not with me? Else I must see the evil that would come upon my father!”
–from Genesis 44
We see a change of heart – the brothers had changed – and Joseph was starting to see what God was using him for … the greater purpose … turning what was planned for evil and using it for the good of nations, sending him in advance so that everyone could be saved…It could have been a response of anger…a response of retaliation…but rather Joseph was given wisdom to see it was for a greater purpose, God had a plan to save and so he forgave them…
Joseph Reveals Himself
1Now Joseph could no longer restrain himself in front of all those who were standing by him, so he cried out, “Get everyone away from me!” So no one stood with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.
2But he gave his voice to weeping so that the Egyptians heard, and Pharaoh’s household heard.
3Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” And his brothers were unable to answer him because they were terrified at his presence.
4Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near me.” So they came near. “I’m Joseph, your brother—the one you sold to Egypt,” he said.
5“So now, don’t be grieved and don’t be angry in your own eyes that you sold me here—since it was for preserving life that God sent me here before you.
6For there has been two years of famine in the land, and there will be five more years yet with no plowing or harvesting.
7But God sent me ahead of you to ensure a remnant in the land and to keep you alive for a great escape.
8So now, it wasn’t you, you didn’t send me here, but God! And He made me as a father to Pharaoh, lord over his whole house and ruler over the entire land of Egypt.
9“Go up quickly to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son, Joseph: God has made me lord over all Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t delay.
10Then you’ll live in the land of Goshen, and be close to me, you and your children and your children’s children, your flocks and your cattle, and everything that belongs to you.
11I’ll provide food for you there—for the famine will last another five years—otherwise you’ll lose everything, you and your household, and everything that belongs to you.’
12And look, you and my brother Benjamin can see with your own eyes that it’s my mouth that’s speaking to you.
13You must tell my father about all my honor in Egypt, and about all that you’ve seen. And you must quickly bring my father down here.”
14Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept while Benjamin wept upon his neck,
15and he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. Finally after this, his brothers talked with him.
16When the commotion was heard in Pharaoh’s house—“Joseph’s brothers have come!”—it was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and his servants,
17So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers: ‘Do this! Load your animals and go to the land of Canaan.
18Then get your father, your households, and come to me. I’ll give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you will eat the fat of the land.’
19You are also commanded to say: “Do this! Take for yourselves wagons from the land of Egypt for your little children and for your wives, and pick up your father and come.
20Don’t be concerned about your goods, because the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”
21So the sons of Israel did so. Joseph gave them carts by Pharaoh’s command and he gave them provisions for the journey.
22To each of them he gave a change of clothes, while to Benjamin he gave 300 pieces of silver and five sets of clothes.
23Also to his father he sent the following: ten donkeys carrying from the best of Egypt, and ten female donkeys carrying grain and food and provisions for his father’s journey.
24Then he sent his brothers off, and as they departed, he said to them, “Don’t be anxious on the way.”
25Then they went up from Egypt and came to the land of Canaan, to Jacob their father.
26They told him saying, “Joseph is still alive and he is ruler of the whole land of Egypt!” His heart went numb, for he did not believe them.
27But they told him all of Joseph’s words that he had told them. When he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to pick him up, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.
28Then Israel said, “Enough! My son Joseph is still alive. I must go and see him, before I die.”
–from Genesis 45
So where are you at today? What’s happened to you? Will you keep hold of the past and the anger, the bitterness, the ? Will you forgive and allow God to work in and through you and your life? (Notice…unforgiveness isn’t a word…we are supposed to forgive…just as Jesus paid it all so we could be forgiven…we need to live giving forgiveness too)
Adversity can be turned around and used for a greater purpose! Let’s turn to God and stick with Him through it all so that His purpose can be fulfilled!
Today’s reading continues into Acts where we see Paul even after many warnings walking in obedience right into adversity for the greater call and the greater plan of God…
Going to Jerusalem Despite Warnings
1After tearing ourselves away from them and setting sail, we set a straight course to Cos, the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.
2Finding a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.
3When we came in sight of Cyprus, passing it by on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre—for there the ship was to unload the cargo.
4We looked up the disciples and stayed there seven days. They kept telling Paul through the Ruach not to set foot in Jerusalem.
5When our days there were over, we departed and went on our journey. They all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. After kneeling down on the shore and praying,
6we said farewell to one another. Then we boarded the ship, and they returned home.
7When we had finished the trip from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais. We greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for one day.
8On the next day, we departed and came to Caesarea. We entered the home of Philip, the proclaimer of Good News, who was one of the seven, and we stayed with him.
9Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
10While we stayed there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet, and said, “The Ruach ha-Kodesh says this: ‘In this way shall the Jewish people in Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
12When we heard these things, both we and the local people urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.
13Then Paul responded, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but to die for the name of the Lord Yeshua!”
14Since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, saying only, “May the Lord’s will be done.”
15After these days, we packed and started going up to Jerusalem.
16Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us, bringing us to Mnason of Cyprus—one of the early disciples by whom we might be hosted.
Advice from Jacob and the Elders
17When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters welcomed us gladly.
18On the next day, Paul went in with us to Jacob; all the elders were present.
19After greeting them, he reported to them in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his service.
20And when they heard, they began glorifying God. They said, “You see, brother, how many myriads there are among the Jewish people who have believed—and they are all zealous for the Torah.
21They have been told about you—that you teach all the Jewish people among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to walk according to the customs.
22What’s to be done then? No doubt they will hear that you have come.
23“So do what we tell you. We have four men who have a vow on themselves.
24Take them, and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. That way, all will realize there is nothing to the things they have been told about you, but that you yourself walk in an orderly manner, keeping the Torah.
25“As for Gentiles who have believed, however, we have written by letter what we decided—for them to abstain from what is offered to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled, and from immorality.”
26The next day Paul took the men, purifying himself along with them. He went into the Temple, announcing when the days of purification would be completed and the sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.
Trouble at the Temple
27When the seven days were about to be completed, the Jewish leaders from Asia saw Paul in the Temple and began stirring up the whole crowd. They grabbed him,
28shouting, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching all men everywhere against our people and the Torah and this place. Besides, he has even brought Greeks into the Temple and defiled this holy place!”
29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they assumed that Paul had brought him into the Temple.
30The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They grabbed Paul and dragged him out of the Temple, and the gates were shut at once.
31As they were trying to kill him, news came to the commander of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in chaos.
32Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and rushed down to them. Upon seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33Then the commander came up, arrested Paul, ordered him to be bound with two chains, and began investigating what he had done.
34Some in the crowd shouted one thing, and some another. As he could not determine the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into headquarters.
35When he came to the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd.
36For the multitude of people that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
37As Paul was about to be brought into the headquarters, he said to the commander, “Can I say something to you?” The commander said, “You know Greek?
38Then you’re not the Egyptian who stirred up a rebellion some time ago—and led four thousand men of the Assassins out into the desert?”
39Paul said, “I am a Jewish man from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city. I beg you, let me speak to the people.”
40When the commander had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people with his hand. When there was a great hush, he spoke to them in Aramaic, saying:
–from Acts 21
We will have to wait to learn what he said (or you can skip ahead and read Acts 22)
Adversity continues in today’s reading as we look to John the Baptist who kept pointing people to God! He kept calling people from their sinful ways and to turn back to God! But not everyone was receptive and hence him being in prison. Today’s reading continues on that topic from the book of Matthew…
Yeshua’s Cousin Beheaded
1At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Yeshua.
2He said to his servants, “This is John the Immerser—he has risen from the dead! Because of this, these powers are at work in Him.”
3For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
4because John had been telling him, “It is not permitted for you to have her.”
5Although Herod wanted to kill John, he feared the crowd because they considered John a prophet.
6But when Herod’s birthday celebration came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod,
7so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.
8Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Immerser, here on a platter!”
9The king became sorrowful; but because of his oaths and those reclining with him, he commanded it to be given.
10And he sent and had John beheaded in the prison.
11His head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.
12John’s disciples came forth and took the body and buried it. Then they went and reported to Yeshua.
–from Matthew 14
Imagine hearing the news. Imagine facing the adversity of a large crowd (consider 5000 men and their families) and needing to be able to feed them all. Imagine the miracle it would take to handle that…
Feeding Hungry Followers
13Now when Yeshua heard this, He went away from there privately by boat to an isolated place. But when the crowds heard, they followed Him on foot from the towns.
14As Yeshua came ashore, He saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.
15When it became evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, “This place is isolated, and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”
16But Yeshua said to them, “They don’t need to leave—you give them something to eat.”
17“We have nothing here except five loaves and two fish,” they said to Him.
18“Bring them here to Me,” He said.
19Ordering the crowd to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish; and looking up to heaven, He offered the bracha. After breaking the loaves, He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces left over.
21Now those eating were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
–from Matthew 14
Imagine the adversity of being in a small boat in the midst of a storm. Imagine the waves and the wind. Imagine now spotting what appears to be a ghost walking on the water. Who would you call out to? What would you do? Will you keep your eyes on God?
Testing Peter’s Faith to Walk on Water
22Right away, Yeshua made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.
23After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the hillside by Himself to pray. And when evening came, He was there alone.
24But the boat was already a long way from land, tossed around by the waves, for the wind was against it.
25Now in the fourth watch of the night, Yeshua came to them, walking on the sea.
26But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It’s a ghost!” And they cried out with fear.
27But immediately, Yeshua spoke to them, saying, “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.”
28Answering, Peter said to Him, “Master, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to go to Yeshua.
30But seeing the wind, he became terrified. And beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Master, save me!”
31Immediately Yeshua reached out His hand and grabbed him. And He said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You really are Ben-Elohim!”
34After they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.
35And when the men of that place recognized Yeshua, they sent word into all the surrounding region. And they brought to Him all those who were in bad shape
36and kept begging Him that they might just touch the tzitzit of His garment—and all who touched it were cured.
–from Matthew 14
We need to make time to spend with God! Just as Jesus would make time to go and talk to the Father, we need to make time in our lives to be with God! Yes, we should be walking and talking with Him throughout the busy day, but we need to make and take some quiet time away from it all to be and build our relationship with Him!
Let’s capture the truth of keeping our eye on Jesus! I remember the day when I read this and was at a crossroads in my career! I remember asking God “If the company I am working at is the boat and you want me to get out, can you tell me what side?” and shortly after I received a text to get out of the boat. And so I started to process of determining which side as I updated my résumé and LinkedIn profile and started to apply for jobs. It was Feb 2013 I got the message and it will be 3 years in May that I have started this new journey, the second half. I call it the second half because on my last day of my old job my reading came from Job 42:12 with the promise of the second half being twice as good as the first half. God has a great and mighty way of accomplishing His plan even in the face of adversity! He can use that adversity to get us right where He needs us to be! He can turn what the enemy would have wanted to use for evil and turn it around for good! Wow! It’s been three years since that took place and God continues to work in my life and speak to me and help me through the various challenges and adversity that come my way!
Will you trust Him? Will you walk in a spirit of forgiveness? Will you be one who shares hope, truth, and love? Let’s be ambassadors for God! Let’s live in a way to glorify Him!