, , , , , , , , ,

In his book, All In, Mark Batterson explains that spiritual maturity is when the theoretical becomes experiential.  That led me to think about Joseph, the son of Jacob, and how his life unfolded.

We get to know Joseph at the age of 17 and assuredly, he could never have imagined that he would someday be second in command to the Pharaoh of Egypt. His dream of his father and brother bowing down to him left out the details.

There was jealousy in the family ranks. Joseph’s brothers took opportunity and cast him into a pit. He was sold into slavery. The brothers thought they were done with him—their father’s favorite.

In years to come Joseph had mercy on his brothers and he took them out of a pit of their own, the pit of famine. He could have denied them help. He could have given help but with smugness and haughtiness. He could have charged them in some way for his rescue. Yet, Joseph with the blessing of Pharoah gave them the best land in Egypt. And with the material blessing came spiritual blessing: his forgiveness and his love, neither of which was deserved. God gives to us that same way.

Joseph suffered other pits after that one the brothers put him in. There was the pit of lies that cast him out of Pharaoh’s presence and put him in prison. And there was the pit of being forgotten after interpreting the cupbearer’s dream and remaining in prison for another two years.

Joseph moved from theoretical maturity of spirit to experiential. He grew in the dark jail as a seed grows in the dark earth. He didn’t give up his God. He kept depending, trusting. He was all in and he saw it through.

The brothers’ unkindness was rewarded with Joseph’s kindness. God had a plan for Joseph’s life and nothing that happened to him could do away with that plan.

Think of the prayers Joseph must have prayed. Think of the hopelessness he had to fight off.  Think of how God surely spoke to Joseph during the years in prison. Joseph took a stand for God and God took a stand for Joseph.

Joseph made choices along the way. He could have chosen bitterness. He could have chosen revenge. But Joseph wasn’t committed to feelings; he was committed to God. He lined up with the One who had his life in hand. In those first 17 years, Joseph learned of his father’s Father. He came to know and believe in the God of Jacob. He was establishing then the foundation on which he would live, grow, and trust. God is always at work in us.

We think about those who have hurt us, deceived us, gone extra steps to destroy us. But after that must come the question: How do we respond? Do we take higher ground with God or revenge like the world would tell us to? Can we forgive like God forgives us? Can we reap the peace of a Joseph by simply forgiving and desiring good for the individuals? Can we sincerely invite God to wash us clean of all resentment, all memories of mistreatment? Do we even want that? It is a sobering question! A question that begs truth, not pious words. Do we earnestly want to cast off the heavy robes that drag us down and hold us back? Do we want to shed garments stained by bruised feelings, bitterness, anger, and deep hurt? Can we leave these things behind and be dressed in the garments of Jesus? Can we accept his robes of forgiveness, love, and kindness and desire to bless and not condemn our enemies? It’s easy to say yes, but doing it begs for action.

Can I be a Joseph today? Can you? It’s our decision.

You can find the story of Joseph and his family in Genesis 37-47:12.