In his new book, Clinging to Hope: What Scripture Says about Weathering Times of Trouble, Chaos, and Calamity, Pastor Chuck brings encouragement from examples in the Bible. In this section, he shares three principles from the life of Joseph.
Though they’re not explicit in Scripture, I see three pillars of Joseph’s theology that led to his ability to endure every hardship without bitterness. These pillars aren’t spelled out clearly for us. We have to read between the lines. But they’re fundamental truths about God that help us make sense of Joseph’s words and actions. As we grow to embrace these truths, they’ll provide the same kind of stability in our lives as they did in Joseph’s.
JOSEPH SAW GOD’S PERFECT PLAN IN EVERY LOCATION
He said, “It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives” (Genesis 45:5). It wouldn’t have taken Joseph long to think through the places he had to go in order to end up where he was. Had he not been in that caravan of Ishmaelites, he wouldn’t have ended up in Egypt. If he hadn’t ended up in Egypt, he wouldn’t have wound up in Potiphar’s house. If he hadn’t been in Potiphar’s house, he wouldn’t have landed in prison. If he hadn’t been in prison, he wouldn’t have been summoned to Pharaoh’s palace. If he hadn’t been called to Pharaoh’s palace, he wouldn’t have been appointed as second in command. Joseph could look back and see God’s perfect plan in every location. Each link in the chain connecting one place to another depended on the one before.
JOSEPH SENSED GOD’S GRACIOUS HAND IN EVERY POSITION
He said, “God has made me master over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:9). Regardless of how far down circumstances tried to drag Joseph, God saw to it that he would eventually rise above them. When Joseph was sold as a slave to Potiphar, the Lord was with him, giving him success and favor. His master promoted Joseph to a position of “personal attendant . . . in charge of his entire household and everything he owned” (39:4). Then, when Joseph was cast into prison, the blessing of God upon him propelled him to a position where he was “in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison” (39:22). Not only was Joseph in the right place at the right time, but he was in the right position at each critical juncture in the unfolding of God’s plan.
JOSEPH SUBMITTED TO GOD’S SOVEREIGN WILL IN EVERY SITUATION
He said, “God intended it all for good” (Genesis 50:20). Talk about an attitude that makes all the difference in the world! Joseph acknowledged that God was in it all, from start to finish. From the dark cistern in Canaan—to the dungeon cell in Egypt—to the right hand of Pharaoh’s throne. Because of this perspective, Joseph refused to punish his brothers for their wickedness (see verse 19). This didn’t mean that what they did was good. They intended it for evil (50:20). Yet even their intentionally wicked acts were redeemed by God and woven into the tapestry of His plan.
I can remember a time early on in my seminary training when the doctrine of the sovereignty of God frightened me. Didn’t it mean that God is a distant deity? Or a celestial brute, pushing and maneuvering His way through nameless humanity?
Through a series of events far too numerous and complicated to describe, I’ve come to realize that, rather than being frightened by God’s sovereignty, I’m now comforted in it. Since He alone is God, and since He, being God, has good as His goal, how could I do anything but embrace it?
God gives us grace to endure. And it is providential, sovereign grace. In all the mystery of His waiting and working, He can still be trusted. Like Joseph did in Egypt, you and I must remain sensitive to those moments when He will finally break the silence and intervene on our behalf. And while we’re waiting in hope to reach our destination, we must endure the journey, day after day, in faith.
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now Chancellor Emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.