“Is this a test?” January 22

 

Medical test doctor stethoscopeHave you ever wondered, in the midst of some difficulty, “Is this a test?” Does God, actually, test His people and, if so, are tests punishments or something else? What does God do when we fail those tests?

As we continue the Genesis story, Joseph will be faced with a test. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery? And his brothers will face some tests of their own, including the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and how he might retaliate.

 

Today’s Readings:
Genesis 43 & 44
Psalm 11.1-7
Proverbs 4.10-13
Matthew 14.22-36

 

Is this a test?

Genesis 43 & Genesis 44:

 

From Prison to Leadership

 

If you’ve been following along in Genesis, you know that Joseph had been thrown into prison after he was falsely accused of sexual assault, as if being sold into slavery was not enough. While there, God gave him the interpretation of two men’s dreams. Joseph asks the one that was released to remember him and his plight, but he, apparently, never did.

Two years later Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams (Gen. 41):

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard.11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”

14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.

15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

God warned that seven years of abundance would be followed by seven years of famine. He, not only, revealed the interpretation to Joseph, but gave him so much wisdom that Pharaoh put him in charge of managing a program to prepare for the famine. His plan was so successful that people from surrounding areas came to buy grain, including Jacob’s brothers (Gen. 42).

 

You are spies!

 

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested …

I don’t know what was, actually, in Joseph’s heart when he first saw his brothers after so many years. The text says he remembered his dreams, but he, also, had to remember the hurt and the wrong they had done? He was  faced with a test of sorts. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery.

 

The Test

 

His brothers would face the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and, later, the fear of how Joseph might retaliate.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

 

Back to Egypt

 

Time passed. Simeon was sitting in jail, probably wondering if anyone was coming back for him.

Jacob had not been willing to deal with the situation. The thought of losing Benjamin was too great for him, but his hand had been forced by continued famine.

 

God & Famine

 

God often uses famine and lack to move us or test us. Sometimes, because we have become too content in our comfort zones, fearing failure or change. Other times, there are selfish desires, hidden idolatries, or sinful patterns that need to be exposed and dealt with. There are, also, times when we may not know the strength and ability we have in Christ until it is tested.  Continue reading

“Beaten and Bruised?” December 27

 

Beaten & Bruised? - Do you feel beaten and bruised from raising a strong-willed child or by being in a difficult marriage? How do you keep going when life seems to be full of challenges? Not in your own strength, but …Do you feel beaten and bruised from raising a strong-willed child or by being in a difficult marriage? Have you recently faced a devastating loss or were the holidays especially difficult? How do you keep going when life seems to be full of challenges? Not in your own strength, but …

 

Today’s Readings:
Zechariah 4-6
Psalm 148.1-6
Proverbs 30.24-28
Revelation 17.1-18

 

Beaten and Bruised?

 

Zechariah 4-6:

Not by Might

 

Verse 4.6 says, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.

Sixteen years previously, doubt, discouragement and opposition had caused the Jews to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel was God’s chosen leader and this word from God was meant to be an encouragement to him that they were to finish the task God had given them.

This should be an encouragement to us, as well, when we feel beaten and bruised or when God has called us to some challenge—whether raising a strong-willed child, honoring Christ in the midst of a difficult marriage, growing a ministry, or serving Him in the workplace. It is not by might, not by our own strength or abilities, but through God’s power that we will succeed.

[Tweet “How do you raise a difficult child or handle other challenges? Not by might, but …” #soulsurvival]

Hebrews 4.14-16:

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When we come to Him boldly in prayer, He promises to give us the help and the grace we need in every situation.

And James 1.2-7 says:

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

He will provide us with the wisdom we need, but we must Continue reading

“When Life is Hard” + LINKUP

 

When Life is HardWelcome once again to Mondays @ Soul Survival. Each week I’ll feature a book that I consider a valuable resource. This week’s selection is When Life Is Hard by James MacDonald, one of the best books I have ever read about tests and trials.

Pastor MacDonald wrote this book in the midst of what he calls “a storm and finally a category 5 hurricane.” What he learned can help each one of us as we go through our own tests, trials and storms.

Pastor MacDonald:

Jeremiah 29:11 says “He knows the plans He has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

Yes! That’s what I want to hear, you may be thinking. Let’s get on those plans right now—future, hope, blessing. I’m ready! But here’s the thing: God knows something else. He knows that we’re not always ready for the plans that He has for us. So He has some plans to get us ready for His plans. That’s really what this book is about—taking the difficult things that God allows into your life, and getting to the place where the blessing can be received.

The key truth he drives home throughout the book is from Job 23.10:

“He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”

God knows what is going on in each of our lives and He has promised to use trials for good in our lives (Rom. 8.28-29).

Pastor MacDonald defines trials this way:

A trial is a painful circumstance allowed by God to change my conduct and my character. My conduct—that’s what I do. And then to a deeper level, my character—that’s who I am.

He goes on to help us first evaluate our hard circumstances. Are they trials or a consequences? This is an important distinction. The author: Continue reading