Faith is cultivated and maintained through daily disciplines including reading and understanding scripture and developing a relationship with God. We learn more about God and his ways through our study of the bible. We live in a time when information is readily accessible and available at our fingertips. Many ministers devote time daily to writing inspirational teachings through devotions, videos, blogs and other communication forums. We do not have an excuse about not having access to scripture and biblical teaching.
We build and maintain relationships with friends and loved ones by spending time with them. The telephone is a great invention and it means that we don’t have to write letters and wait days or weeks for them to be delivered. How much time and effort do we invest in learning about the things of God? What are the main things that hold and keep our attention daily? My phone provides weekly stats of how many hours I spend on it. It provides a breakdown of how much time I spend reading, on social media or watching videos.
I don’t always get the balance right and oftentimes I have to remind myself to switch off the gadgets and listen to what God is saying. There is a major difference when I switch off and connect with the father. There is great peace and assurance in hearing God speak and knowing that I am close to him.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Earlier in Genesis 37, Joseph had dreams concerning his future and that of his brothers. “Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf” (Genesis 37:7). Joseph’s brothers were angry with him and hated him even more when he told them about the dream. His brothers already hated him because his father loved him more than them.
His brothers hatred resulted in a plot to kill him. Reuben convinced them not to kill Joseph so they threw him in a pit and later sold him to caravan of Ishmealites travelling to Egypt. Fast forward a couple of years later and there was a worldwide famine. Joseph was made Overseer in Egypt because of his wisdom and ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Joseph’s brothers were sent to Egypt to buy grain and they had to report to Joseph who was in charge of the supplies. As was customary in Egypt, anyone approaching Joseph had to bow before him.
Joseph’s dream had become a reality. “And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them” Genesis 42:9). Fortunately for Joseph’s brothers, he had already forgiven their sins against him. Joseph knew that God had used his brother’s hatred of him to send him ahead to Egypt to prepare for the famine. It must have taken great restraint, for Joseph to be in a position where he had the power to exact revenge but didn’t.
Joseph’s journey included hatred, betrayal, threats or murder, slavery and imprisonment. How did Joseph remain faithful to God and maintain a heart of forgiveness? Joseph saw that his trust and confidence in God meant that nothing could stop the plan of God. God will at times use unconventional means of bringing a dream to pass.
Like Joseph, the dreams that you have will come to pass. It does not matter what you have been through or what you are going through. If God has shown you a dream and vision for your life, remain faithful and it will come to pass.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry”(Habakkuk 2:3).
Yesterday we discussed Joseph’s time in Egypt, leading up to his time in prison. We considered how God caused him to proposer and find favour even with the prison guard. Later in chapter 41, Joseph’s gift of dream interpretation was called into action. Two other inmates dreamed about their future with Pharaoh and Joseph accurately interpreted their dreams. And just as Joseph interpreted, one servant was restored to his position and the other was beheaded. Joseph had one request for the servant who was to be restored. He asked him to remember him when he became free but he forgot about Joseph (Genesis 40).
In Genesis 41, Pharaoh had two dreams and none of his magicians or wise men could interpret the dream. It was then that the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh how Joseph had accurately interpreted his dream and that of the other servant. Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh and he assured Pharaoh that it was God who would provide the answer to his dreams. Joseph not only interpreted the dreams, but had the wisdom to advise Pharaoh regarding what needed to be done about what God had revealed (Genesis 41:1-36).
Joseph’s wisdom impressed Pharaoh so much that he decided to appoint Joseph over his house and in command of the people. “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are”(Genesis 41:39). In all of Egypt, Pharaoh was the only one with more power and authority than Joseph. Joseph used his God given gift of interpretation, trusted God for the answer and glorified God in the presence of Pharaoh.
Joseph’s faithfulness and his spirit of excellence in using what God had given him led to success. Of what good would most people consider the ability to interpret dreams? Every good and perfect gift is from above and has been given to us by God. Our gifts are given to us to solve problems and to offer answers to questions. Success comes from our ability to solve problems and to offer answers to difficult questions.
“For which cause I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).
We know the story quite well about Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers in Genesis 37. The accounts in chapter 39 states that God was with Joseph and he was successful. Imagine being enslaved in a foreign country away from your family and being considered successful. Joseph was well thought of by his master who had confidence in him. “So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:4).
The story took a sad turn when his master’s wife took a fancy to him and tried to seduce him into sleeping with her. Joseph rejected her advances and she created a story to tell her servants and her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph is landed into prison by his master who is angry about his wife’s accusations against Joseph. We are likely to feel sad for Joseph who seemed against his luck. First he was hated by his brothers, threatened with murder, sold into slavery in a foreign country and now lied on by his maters’s wife. Joseph must have wondered why it seemed like he could not catch a break.
Let us see what Joseph experienced in prison. “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21). Imagine Joseph also finding favour in prison. It would seem like favour chased this guy wherever he went. And Joseph rose to prominence and a position of leadership even in prison. “And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it” (Genesis 39:22).
Nothing can separate us from God’s love, mercy and favour. Joseph is from the seed of Abraham and God’s promise was, “blessed when you go out, blessed when you come in and blessed in the field.” Blessing was everywhere that Joseph went. We are also the seed of Abraham and we are blessed all around. God is in us, around us and there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from his favour.
Many people worry about getting older and are often concerned about the effects of ageing on their bodies. Some industries have profited from people’s desire to remain young, even if this is merely the appearance of youth. Cosmetic surgery is a huge industry and the wealthy and famous are nipped and tucked from head to toe to maintain the image of youth. The ‘fountain of youth’ is what most people are in search of. Some people use natural alternatives such as a good diet and exercise to remain youthful.
I think wanting to remain youthful is a good thing, if the routes to attaining this are as natural as possible. Healthy eating and regular exercise does the body well and helps to ward off lifestyle diseases. In fact, our bodies are a temple of the living God and he expects us to treat them as such. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
I also believe that a relationship with God and our faith in him keeps us youthful. Let’s consider Moses who did not suffer the effects of ageing. “Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7). Moses did not lose his sight and did not need to wear glasses. He did not use a walking aid or other things to support him due to losing strength because of age. I am not looking down on anyone who require aids to support their daily functioning. What I am saying is that it is possible, through our walk with God and faith, to trust him to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
Caleb also spoke to Joshua about having the same strength at 85, that he had when he was 40 years old. “I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming” (Joshua 14:11). I believe that youthfulness, long life, health and strength are promises in the word of God. When we trust in him, obey his promises and walk in his will, then we are able to claim these blessings.
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).
Moses spoke to the Israelites during their journey through the wilderness to the promised land. He outlined to them how God expected them to live and the laws that they needed to follow. Moses then gave them instructions about their entry into the promised land. Along with the instructions came a promise of protection from an angel (ministering spirit). This angel would go before the people to guard and protect them and to give direction.
God also warned the people, “Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him”(Exodus 23:21). While the angels act as guardians and ministering spirits, they also execute vengeance and judgement for sin. The angels are fierce warriors and fight battles for God’s children against his adversaries. “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out” (Exodus 23:23).
At the end of verse 23, when God says, “and I blot them out,” it is the angel who would act on God’s behalf to wipe out the enemies before God’s people. Unfortunately in this story the Israelites were too afraid of the inhabitants and did not enter the promised land. They did not always see the physical presence of the angel of God, but needed faith to know that he was there guarding and protecting them.
As christians there are angels assigned to stand guard and protect us. They carry out the answer to our prayers and are here on earth to minister to us. We do not always see them and if we did, we would understand the power that is available to us. Elisha once had to pray for God to open the eyes of his servant to see the mountain of angels on chariots of horses and fire. They were there in great numbers to protect him against the army that had come against him (2 Kings 6:17).
Our faith requires us to see into the invisible realm what we cannot see with our natural eyes. To see angels surrounding us to protect and to help us win every battle. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7).
Paul spoke to the church regarding the need to encourage and motivate each other to do good. It is easy to be critical if you grew up in a harsh and judgemental environment. Some parents have a view that criticising their children will make them want to do well. The opposition is true and encouragement sweetens labour. Our words are important and constant criticism can negatively affect people’s self esteem and confidence. It is important to look for opportunities to offer praise and recognition when others do well.
The habit of being an encourager may take some practice, if this is not a natural trait for you. There are times when it is necessary to offer some constructive feedback. The aim should always be to help people to grow. It should never be just because we want to speak our minds. Before we speak, we have to ask ourselves; will this help the person hearing or will this serve my own need to be heard? Our motive is important and the purpose of our communication is what will determine how it is received. “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
Sarcasm and cynicism can be brutal and negative. The bible warns us that life and death is in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). If you constantly criticise your colleagues, coworkers, family members or clients, is it any wonder when they demonstrate the traits that you constantly talk about. If you believe that your words are powerful, then should you be more careful and intentional about what you say?
Honesty is important and it is also important that we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
We recall Jesus’s crucifixion and death on the cross. The story is told that about the ninth hour, there was darkness on the land and Jesus cried out to God. The translation of what he said in Aramaic or Hebrew, was Jesus’s question to God. He asked the father why he had forsaken him. We know that God never left Jesus or turned away from him.
Some stories suggest that God could not look at Jesus as he carried on himself the sins of mankind. Other suggestions are that it broke the father’s heart to watch his only son crucified. Either way, God was in Jesus and his presence remained with him and on the third day, raised him from the dead.
On the third day after his death, Jesus arose from the grave with resurrection power. “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:6). By this we know that the father never left Jesus alone. His presence was abiding in him during his death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
There are seasons of darkness, when it feels as though God is silent. God is always near and he lives in us. We are never alone and God is with us wherever we go. We have to trust him beyond our feelings and faith requires that we believe beyond what we can see.
Jesus told his disciples, ““I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:18-19).
Jesus paid the ultimate price for our redemption on the cross and he died to pay the debt of sin that we owed. Jesus took with him every sin that we have ever committed or will ever commit. When he said, “it is finished,” it meant that he completed the work which he came to accomplish. He also meant that he completely removed all of our sins and placed them into the sea of forgetfulness and he remembers them no more.
Many of us struggle with forgiving others who have hurt us. We can also struggle with forgiving ourselves for mistakes made in the past. We can also carry guilt for things that was not even our fault in the first place. Emotional abuse, blame and shame based parenting, can leave adults riddled with guilt about situations that are not even real. God is saying that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross sets you free to live without shame.
Even for those situations where we made the wrong decisions and where we allowed pride and disobedience to cause us to drift, God says you are forgiven. Stop punishing yourself for what you did in the past. Self inflicted torment can take the form of refusing to enjoy life. This can cause us to transfer this negative energy to others around us. Our negative image of ourselves can cause us to act in ways that subconsciously push other people away, leaving us isolated and lonely.
God says that you are forgiven and your debts are paid in full. Pray the prayer of confession and accept the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15).
During the time leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, he spoke to his disciples about what was soon to happen. Jesus meant to prepare them for his eventual crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus spoke of being glorified in relation to his crucifixion. Jesus did not limit his upcoming experience to his crucifixion, but saw beyond this to his burial and resurrection. Jesus knew that in order to live that he needed to be willing to sacrifice his life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).
Jesus taught his disciples that whoever loved his own life and glorified themselves in the flesh, could never experience real life. Jesus urged his disciples to follow his example of self sacrifice and denial of self. Despite his conviction that he must lay down his life for the world, Jesus was troubled by what was ahead of him. Nevertheless, his desire was to do the will of the father who sent him. “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again”” (John 12:28).
Jesus spoke also of his ascension following his crucifixion and resurrection. The purpose of which was to lead people to salvation and communion with the father. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). His message and mission is the salvation of the world and to draw people out of darkness into the light.
In chapter 13, Jesus spoke of his betrayal by Judas and gave him the instructions to act quickly. “When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (John 13:31).