Bible Characters Wednesday Writings

Meant for Good: Chronic Illness and the Life of Joseph, Part I

Have you ever listened to a sermon that fit in all the right places where you needed that exact encouragement, perspective, or conviction (or all three), as if God custom built the message to your current situation?

That’s how I felt when I listened to a Youtube sermon on the life of Joseph, preached by the pastor of the small church in Irún, Spain, where I’d spent one of my college summers. (You may not understand Spanish, but I like to link my sources so you know I’m not making things up. If you’d like to refresh on the story of Joseph, read Genesis 37-50.)

In my chronic illness, I could relate so much to Joseph and his story of suffering. The reminders of God’s work in his life gave me the truth and encouragement I needed to look at MY life differently, praise God for His work, and surrender to His perfect plan. 

Joseph’s words to his brothers at the end of the Genesis account sum up the heart of his story–and each of our stories as well:

You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.

Genesis 50:19

With Pastor Israel’s permission, I’m sharing some main points from his sermon, with excerpts and summaries under each. A PDF download of the entire translated sermon transcript will be available with next week’s post. 

1. You are not the main character

The medieval church leaders who believed the sun rotated around the earth weren’t the only ones who got it wrong. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves living in a false reality as well, believing that we’re the center of the solar system (if not the universe) and that life revolves around us. Surely we’re the most important piece of existence, right?

We’re not. Pastor Israel reminds us that we are not the center of everything, God is: 

The first lesson is that Joseph, and the story of Joseph, isn’t an end in and of itself. What do I mean by this? Joseph is simply a part of God’s plan. . . . In the same way you’re a part in God’s plan. In the exact same way. Different situations, different times, different pains, different customs, but simply a part in a plan greater than Joseph.

When we look at it that way, whether Joseph suffered or didn’t suffer doesn’t matter as much. Do you agree with me? Because Joseph is secondary in this. The main character of the story isn’t Joseph. The main character is God and how He uses Joseph to accomplish His eternal plan.

Takeaway: We’re human beings with a sinful nature that, like those grocery carts with a stuck wheel, keeps veering in the wrong direction, away from truth and into lies. Don’t fall into believing that you’re the star player of God’s team. Remember how small–though never insignificant–you are in Almighty God’s universal plan. 

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

2. God has a plan

On this blog we talk a lot about how easy it is in a difficult situation–especially when you’re living in an ongoing difficulty–to wonder if God knows what He’s doing. Why He’s letting us suffer. What the point could possibly be. 

Pastor Israel puts before us again the biblical truth that God does have a plan, and this plan is good:

The plan of God for your life, is it good or bad? Notice that I don’t ask if it’s painful. I’m asking if the purpose of God for your life is good. Is it? Of course. Is it good spiritually or is it good materially? Of course, this question needs to be clarified, doesn’t it? The spiritual purpose of God for your life is always good. If He has died for you, if He has provided His Son for you, why then will He let you go and say, “Now search for life”? We are His children, He has a perfect plan for us. Perfect for us. 

In the face of difficulties, God always has His plan and God is always with you. This is if we’re His children. To those who love God, all things work together for good, and then it clarifies “to those who are called according to His purpose,” to those who are really His children. The natural man, the man who doesn’t know God, doesn’t have this comfort. He absolutely does not have this comfort. The man who doesn’t know God has to wander through life however he wanders, without comfort in pain, without a shoulder to cry on. But the child of God always has this comfort.

Pastor Israel also draws from Joseph’s history, from the life of Jacob, to remind us that God’s plan will always be accomplished no matter what.

What God wants to do with us, He’s going to do. It’s that simple. The more we worry, the more we go crazy, the more we yell, the more we get frustrated—what God has wanted to do in your life is what He is doing, and what He wants to do with you in the future He’s going to do.

Now this doesn’t mean that you can lie on the floor and say, “Okay, now let the will of God be done in me.” We have to keep moving in obedience to Him. But understand that what God wants to do with you He’s going to do.

Despite any opposition we face–or any opposition we give–nothing can keep God’s purposes from being accomplished.

Takeaway: Do you really believe your suffering is part of God’s plan, and that this plan for your life is good? Are you thankful for the comfort of this promise to you as God’s child? Can you accept God’s design for your spiritual good even if it’s not physically comfortable, easy, or pleasant? 

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

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