For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Dear Friends, I am fully aware that over my many years of preaching and teaching, I have nearly worn out this verse of Scripture.
As I advance into the later stages of my life on earth, I cannot escape the continuing need to take stock of who I really am by the evidence of what I have really accomplished. I admit that my greatest fear in life has been that I might have lived a long, but insignificant life. That concern swallows up even the specter of death itself.
I don’t think I am alone. Finding the meaning of life is a universal quest. I am not a morbid person. Nor am I a religious zealot. I am simply a seeker of truth. One certain truth is that we are going to die. That is a remnant of “settled science” that has yet to be altered, in my lifetime anyway.
Another truth, one that could have been missed along the way, is that we were born for a reason, a destiny that God intended for us to fulfill in our lifetime, however long or short it might be. Christians who believe that God’s Word is true must take heed of what He says about our life, our destiny, and our purpose for being. The Christian life requires serious personal intention.
I love the classic Bible stories. I always have. They teach us about how real people dealt with real-life issues and the difference it made in their time and, consequently, in our own.
Yes, those stories are timeless. One such story is the life of Joseph, son of Jacob. His father had to overcome a lot of personal issues and character flaws to find his peace with God. Joseph, on the other hand, seemed to be totally pure of heart. He was the youngest among his brothers, but most favored by his father simply because he was the son of Rachel, the wife his father loved the most. She had been barren for years and conceived Joseph later than Jacob’s other sons.
His brothers resented him for understandable reasons. Some of them were children to slave women, the others must have felt overlooked as well. Joseph certainly lived a privileged life and that was obvious to them all. Not only did he receive all that special attention from his father, he was also a tattletale.
On occasion, Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers while they tended flocks in the wilderness. His reports were far short of stellar, which added fuel to their hate for him. Joseph was more concerned with honoring his father than winning favor with his brothers.
On top of all that, he kept talking about his dreams that suggested he would one day rule over them and the whole family. What arrogance! What nerve! Their plot to rid themselves of him and his snobby self-esteem was understandable.
When opportunity presented itself, Joseph’s brothers sold him to some traders on their way to Egypt. They lied to their father about his fate, leaving Jacob in insufferable sorrow. They may have had some remorse, but they were rid of their annoying little brother and life went on for better or worse.
Meanwhile, Joseph became a slave in a foreign land. He could have easily become angry, depressed, and discouraged in his new lowly status. Perhaps he could now better relate to the position of his half-brother slave sons. In any case, he just seemed to make the best of his situation. Better than his father’s favor, he enjoyed God’s favor.
Why? Who knows? Grace is a mystery, and we’d best leave it that way, lest we mis-explain it. Theologians often do that. Joseph proved himself to be a faithful servant. His first master, a high-ranking military officer, eventually put Joseph in charge of everything he owned. That’s a lot of responsibility to put on a young man’s shoulders.
Ironically, Joseph’s faithfulness cost him his job and the freedom he enjoyed. The boss’s wife made unsuccessful passes at him and when those were respectfully rejected, she falsely accused him of sexual assault. The result was demotion to prison.
Had I been Joseph I might have complained to God about my wasted faithfulness, suggesting to Him that perhaps I should have used my status to my own personal advantage. Joseph was better than that. He kept on being faithful and reliable. Soon, he oversaw the whole prison, while still being a prisoner himself.
People recognize when someone enjoys God’s favor … and the wise ones invest in that person. And if that was not enough, Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of fellow prisoners and servants of Pharaoh. Those dreams came true! His requests to be remembered were forgotten and he remained locked up.
Then, one glorious day, it happened. Pharoah has a haunting dream that none of his wise men can solve. His butler remembers, tells the ruler about Joseph. Bam! Joseph finds himself before one of the most powerful men on earth confidently advising him on how to manage the nation’s resources for the coming famine.
Amazing! Joseph woke up one morning in the prison and went to bed that very night in the palace. He was put in charge of the whole kingdom. Faithfulness eventually paid off, not just for him, but for his entire family and the eventual nation of Israel.
As the story goes, Joseph’s family ended up relocating to Egypt to escape the famine. The brothers did not recognize Joseph until he later confessed that he was the one they had sold into slavery. I can only imagine the dread they must have experienced. But revenge was never a part of Joseph’s psyche.
He received his whole family, including a younger brother his mother had delivered while dying, into the richest part of the country. That was the best sort of reconciliation imaginable. The uncertainty his brothers had of his sincerity was cleared after their father’s death.
They came to Joseph to plead for their lives, fearing that he might still hold a grudge. Joseph’s reassurance was profound. He responded, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s destiny was much bigger than his personal issues. (Genesis 50:20)
Romans 8:28 proclaims, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This promise certainly worked out well for Joseph his family, Israel, and us.
His faithfulness, purified by his sufferings proved that God was at work during the whole process. Joseph had a destiny far greater than he could have fully realized. He simply believed God and lived his life according to His promises.
So, who knows where our destiny will lead us? It is on us to live our lives faithfully day by day and trust God to do what only He can do. We will not be sorry at the end of it all.
God bless you.
[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. In August, he will teach a new class of Bible students in Mexico. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org]