I’d like to suggest that Joseph’s secret to overcome evil involves something he knew, something he did, and something he refused to do. See, in all of that thirteen years, in all the betrayal, injustice, and abandonment there is something he knew and, actually, this is going to come right out in the text because he is going to meet his brothers.
And they are going to have a number of situations and he is going to test them and he is going to put gold in their bags and he is going to give them the grain and he is going to hide his identity. He doesn’t do it to punish them but he wants to test them, he wants to bring them to a point where they realize what they have done and how they have sinned against God. And they come clean with the whole deal.
And we pick up the story here in chapter 45 and this is what he knew. Nothing comes into our lives by accident. Circle the word by accident in your notes. I’ll tell you what, you start believing that, your attitude will change and it will lead to a great change in behavior.
Nothing comes into our lives by accident. It is either decreed or allowed by whom? An all-wise, sovereign God for our good. There is evil in the world, God has given us this tremendous gift of free will, people can choose to do good, they can choose to do evil. But their evil can’t ruin your life. But there is evil in the world. And God either decreed, knowing His plan for you, or He allowed it and He is going to orchestrate it in a way for your good.
To say that God is all-wise means He brings about the best possible ends, by the best possible means, for the most possible people, for the longest possible time. It’s a classic definition of the wisdom of God. And He is good. He wants to bring your best and the word sovereign just means He is in overall, absolute control of all the events and all the circumstances. God knows all things actual and He knows all things possible.
And so what you see is that God has a good, big plan for each of our lives and the little plans of some who intend to harm us are then refashioned by God to fulfill His big, good plan.
Joseph actively believed that God’s sovereign control of all circumstances was meant for good. At some point in time you just need to write down the phrase, when you’re dealing with your rock, “They meant it for evil; God meant it for good.” God meant it for good. God meant it for good.
Some of the evil that has come at you made you go to a different state, go to a different job. If you can begin to trace it, you’ll realize that if that evil hadn’t happened, “I would have done this instead of that. But, wow, I landed here and that’s where I met my wife. Or that’s when I realized I was a lot better at this and I took this job instead of that job.”
Notice what it says here in Genesis 45. Joseph is talking to his brothers. He says, “And now, do not be distressed, and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here. Because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you,” – why? “to preserve you for a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here.”
Are we starting to get a pattern here? “It was not you, it was not you, God sent me here.” And then notice, He exalted him. “He made me father to Pharaoh – lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”
Here’s the application, “Therefore, I am never a,” – can you fill it in? “victim.” Never. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it’s not hard, it doesn’t mean it’s not really difficult. You are never a victim. I am never a victim. I can’t play the “poor me” card.
Now, it doesn’t excuse the person’s evil. It never makes it right. But if I can survive and thrive and resist and wait and grow, God will do - what? Work all things together for the good to those that love Him, to those that are called according to His purpose.
And I will tell you, when you meet people instead of the adversity and the betrayal and the abuse and the lies, that it makes them instead of breaks them, I will tell you what, they do not have a victim mentality. They do not have, “The world owes me.” They do not have, “If this wouldn’t have happened, then I wouldn’t be here. And if only that would have happened…”
Some people live with this mindset their entire lives, “I got a raw deal and somebody owes to make my life work out,” and it can be very subtle. And by the way, that type of mindset, that type of personality produces an emotional response that produces the kind of person that other people don’t like to be around.
And so it becomes self-fulfilling. “Oh, poor me.” You try and help the “Oh, poor mes” for a while and then after a while, they just wear you out. And what all of us do is we start avoiding them. And so part of it is you have to face those things.
At some point in time, you have to be angry at the person. I mean, Sandy wailed and cried and worked through and prayed and cried and said, “I don’t feel like it,” and then she went through a process, I’ll talk with you about a little bit later, where she went to that sheriff, she went to that trial, she publically forgave and met that man face to face and forgave him and the people and the law enforcement in Nevada were in awe of, “What in the world gives a person that?”
Did she feel like it? Absolutely not. But she refused to live the rest of her life like, “Someone unjustly took my brother from me and I am going to live with this stuck inside my heart the rest of my life.” How about you?
Basically, Joseph said, “God was in control. Did I like it? No. Was prison fun? Absolutely not. Falsely accused. My reputation.” But at the end of the day he says, “He sent me here.” Their little, evil plans don’t have the power to ruin God’s big, good plan for your life unless you let it. So that’s what he knew.
The second thing is something he did. He blessed those who cursed him. Chapter 45 as you look down, it says, “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all of Egypt.’” Wow, that’s like that dream came true. God was faithful to His promise. “Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me. You, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and your herds, all that you have.”
Now listen to this blessing, “I will provide for you there because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise, you and your household will become destitute.” You can see for yourselves and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. Tell my father about all the honor accorded to me in Egypt and about everything you have seen, and bring my father down here quickly.”
Now think about this. This is not a fairyland story. Joseph chose to willfully bless the very brothers who rejected him. Now that part where I said you need to pray and ask God to have your heart be open? Right about now you need to ask Him to keep it open because if you want to get rid of your rock, you have to first believe that God really is in control and He is good.
And, second, you’re going to have to bless the person who wounded you. He committed to provide for them, their children, their grandchildren. Romans chapter 12 verse 14, “Bless those who curse you. Bless and curse not.” It’s a command. It’s not a suggestion.
“Do not be,” verse 21, in fact, Romans 12:14, here’s the bookend opening and verse 21 is the ending, he’ll go on to say, “never be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When we want to pay back, when we give back evil, it’s like fire comes to us and we try and put out the fire with a gas hose. It’s like drinking poison and thinking the other person is going to die. You have to bless them.
The application is, “I will do good to those who hurt me in a safe and appropriate way.” And I add that, the “do good,” I don’t know what it will look like.
I’ll give you a couple of suggestions. And by a safe and appropriate way, if your father abused you, if you have been sexually abused, if you have been in a marriage where the person was violent, the application is not, “I think I’ll go visit dad,” or, “have my ex-boyfriend who beat me up over for dinner.” No, no, no, no. There are very, very clear boundaries.
But in a safe and appropriate way, how could you bless? How, in some way, could you do good for the person who brought this on you?
I was with a guy this weekend. I had heard his story second or third hand. I had never met him. But it was an amazing story and actually one of those where, since I didn’t use his name, I just told the story.
And I got in the car with this guy and, just so you know that all my life isn’t work, work, work, I got to play golf and it was really fun. And I’m in this cart with this guy named Bruce.
And the person I was with said, “You know that story you use about this guy that…?” “Yeah.” “That’s him. You ought to ask him about it.” So I did. So we are riding in the car, we played some golf, and then we were going to go to this restaurant. And he drove me and so we were alone. And I said, “Bruce, man, I have heard this amazing story.”
And so, a pretty messed up life. Pretty messy, bad, bad divorce. Lots of anger, lots of back and forth to one another, alienated kids, lying about one another, on and on and on. Bruce, at forty-one, kind of gets his life really right with the Lord.
I mean, animosity at levels that some of you don’t have to imagine but messy, difficult, painful, ugly, ugly divorce. Kids separated over it. Well, Bruce comes to Christ, begins to grow spiritually, really puts some roots down, remarries after a period of time. And his ex-wife, out of all this, instead of it making her, it breaks her. She goes through all the money, he pays alimony, pays an extra two years of that, squanders all the money, and is almost destitute.
And now his kids have grown and they get married and the daughter-in-law is talking to his new wife, he has been married now another twenty years. Basically are saying, “You know, we think we are going to end up having her live with us.” And, now, he did before the law, he gave her lots of money, paid all the stuff, paid two extra years he didn’t have to. And, no matter what, she’s out of money again.
And he was, like, “Hey, I did my part. I went over and above.” And his wife that he remarried, a very, very strong Christian and they have been through lots of counseling and repair with the kids and, as he shared yesterday, it’s not a fairytale story, some of the kids have done well. One is still really struggling.
And he said his wife came and said, “I think we need to do something for your ex-wife. I think we need to buy a home for her and then get it where she will always have a place to live, provide for her the rest of her life.” He said, “I looked at my wife like she was on drugs.” And then he said, “I gave her all the reasons why that was such a stupid idea and what I have already done.” And it kind of came back to this, “Bless those...”
And then I said, “Well, what was the turning point?” Because he eventually did it and he did it in a way where she picked out the house. He did it in a way where it could be protected where it couldn’t be resold and she couldn’t mess up. She would have a place to live the rest of her life. Had the kids help her pick it out, the whole nine yards. But totally no control, took the hands off.
And I said, “Well, what moved you to do that?” “Well, my wife said to me, ‘How can you say you love your kids if you’re not willing to help their mother?’” And he said, “You know, I did the legal thing and I did the thing that I never did before God.” He said, “I never dealt with the depth of my sin in the marriage, the depth of how I really blew it. I mean, I asked for God’s forgiveness and I asked for hers but it was still, after all these years.”
And he said, “After we did that,” he said it was like God opened the hardness of her heart and there was a restitution and a forgiveness after twenty-some years. He said, “Last Thanksgiving we had all of my family, all of my children, and my ex-wife. My ex-wife now, in the last five years, has become friends.”
Now, I’m not saying this is, I’m talking about the power of blessing and doing good to those that don’t deserve it. And there has been restoration. And when it got all done it was like all the control issues that happened, she said, when they signed all the papers and she had it, she came to them and she said, “You know, you might want this because if I’m out of town,” she gave him the key to the new house, “So that anytime you guys need to use the house, you can.”
Jesus said, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, forgive your enemies and pray for those who desperately use you. For what good is it if you love those who love you? Don’t even the pagans and the unbelievers do that? But you are never more like your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the evil and the good,” and so He says, “love your enemies; pray for them, do good to them that you might be like,” literally it’s, “that you might be sons of your Father in heaven.”
It’s a Hebrew term, the idea of, you’ll have family likeness when you do good for those who have done evil.
Finally, he refused to do something. And what he refused to do is take revenge. The story picks up in Genesis chapter 50. It says, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs that we did to him? So they sent word to Joseph saying,” you know, it’s like, “Hey, let’s make up something that dad told us.”
“Your father left these instructions before he died. This is what he is to say to Joseph: ‘I ask you to forgive your brothers and the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now, please forgive the sins of your servants of God and of your father.’ When their message came to Joseph, he wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am in the place of God. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what you now see being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”
He forgave them from the heart. He could pay back, he could finally, he refused to take revenge. And here’s the application. And this is a big one for you and for me. I will choose to forgive or release those who hurt me from the retribution they deserve because Christ has done that for me. When Jesus was teaching on prayer, He said, what did He say? “Forgive. If you forgive them, so I will forgive you.”
See, I went through, I don’t know, in the last several years I had two major biggest betrayals of my adult life. And I will tell you, you talk about a rock. I was livid. I was so angry. And I will tell you, what happens for some of you, at least with me, is when this happens when an unbeliever does it, it hurts really badly. When you’re betrayed or falsely accused or something from a fellow Christian that you trust, you just go, “Are you kidding? We ate together. We were brothers. We were…”
And I will tell you, what God will call you to do is, most of you have turned to the back page so I’ll get there, I might as well catch up. There are three specific things you need to do to get rid of this rock. Number one, choose to forgive the person who hurt you. It’s just a choice. You forgive. It’s an act. The process is forgiving. And I’ll tell you how to do that in just a minute.
And when you go through this process over a period of time, some it’s taken me a couple of years, but you choose to forgive. And then you begin to pray for that person. You start to bless that person and you don’t feel like it. And then you will find, one day, you will hear something good about them and before you can think of how you should respond, you’ll have an immediate, positive response and you’ll realize the grace of God has completely changed your heart.
The second thing you need to do is begin praying daily for the person to bless the person who hurt you. And, by the way, you don’t feel like it. And my prayers usually start like this, “Dear God, help them see how wrong they were! Agh!” And then, “Dear God! Bring circumstances into their life so they will really repent and see how they are really are arrrggg.”
And then, as I get with God, it moves to, “God, would You give them a great marriage? God, would You help him be a great dad? God, would You bless the work of their hands? God, would You be merciful? Please don’t give them what they deserve because, God, I don’t want to get what I deserve.” That was the breakthrough for me.
When I looked into my heart and I looked at my side of any issues I just thought, “Oh, God, please don’t give me…” When I was super honest. I had a brother who got next to me during my hardest times and he said, “Chip, I want you to list everything that you need to own in every attitude or action or speech that was a part of that betrayal.” And he said, “You take that before God.” And I did. And as I looked at it I thought, “Ew. I so focused on what they did, I kind of minimized what I did.” And when I saw that I said, “Oh, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
The third thing is, then, as you pray for them every day for the next three days, do one act of kindness, this week, to that person who hurt you. If possible, if they are dead, you can’t do that. But you can write them a letter and forgive them. If they have abused you or it’s not safe, you can keep clear boundaries. But you could anonymously do something that would bring something positive into their life that they would never know came from you, where you can bless them.