Participating with God
The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis takes up more space than any other story. The creation of the earth and the fall of man into sin are summarized 3 chapters, but the story of Joseph is three times longer. This remarkable story has many ups and downs with a lot to teach us about how God interacts with humanity.
Joseph most likely had no idea why the things happening to him were happening. But in Genesis 50:20, he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Joseph figured out that he was participating with God to save many lives.
The life theme of every major character in Scripture was the same: They were participating with God to save many lives.
What Did Participating with God Look Like?
When we look at Joseph’s life, we see that it was a roller coaster, filled with positive and negative turns. First he heard from God in a dream that he would be a very powerful leader (positive turn), then he was thrown into a well because he bragged to his brothers about the dream (negative turn). He then was taken into slavery, but excels in it and ends up running Potiphar’s house (positive turn). Sadly, he was unjustly accused of raping Potiphar’s wife so he was thrown into prison (negative turn). The prison was a special prison for members of Pharaoh’s government and Joseph continues to excel until he ends up running the prison (positive turn). While in prison, he interprets the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s staff (positive turn). When they get out of prison they forget about him so he spends at least two more years waiting for justice. It is only when Pharaoh has a dream himself that Joseph finally stands before the seat of power (positive turn). Finally, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and advises the leader on next steps. In return, Pharaoh then makes Joseph the second in command (positive turn).
Because of all of Joseph’s negative turns he is uniquely capable to advise Pharaoh. For example, he could empathize with the marginalized because he knew what it was like to be abandoned in a well. He also learned how the government worked from living in Potiphar’s house and in running a prison uniquely qualifying him for the power God had originally promised. By the time he’d been given the power, his heart had changed from an arrogant young kid to a wise and powerful leader, (Genesis 37-50). Joseph was being prepared for all God wanted him to do in saving many lives through the difficulties and trials he encountered.
A Life Theme
I look at all of the positive and negative turns in my life and see that there was a lot of pain and some joys. It is amazing to see how God is taking all of the negative painful stuff that I did and happened to me and was cultivating a heart of ministry. I can look at all of that pain and see a theme. My life theme is seeing God redeem my fears and failures to enable me to offer His care to others. At the start of each day I ask myself how I can use my gifts to serve others and ask God to give me the wisdom and strength to accomplish all He has for me. This theme becomes a filter by which I decide what I am going to include in my day and what I am going to leave out. I use that theme as a decision filter for ordering my day. In other words, I reject almost any opportunity that does not reflect the theme of my life.
The best part about knowing the theme of our life is that it helps us know what is important in serving the Lord and what can be left off of our calendar. It is a guide for saying yes to the right things and no to the things that are not for our good and God’s glory.
Like Joseph, and the rest of God’s people, our stories are made up of positive and negative turns. God can redeem any negative turn so it can be understood and used as a valuable experience. Finding a redemptive perspective on the negative turns in our lives is how we see God redeeming all of the pain and suffering we’ve experienced making us strong, wise, and enduring.
Imagine a world where you understand that you are needed and can provide a solution to a problem. Think of yourself as being needed in the world and that it expects something from you. Are you intimately aware the positive and negative turns in your life have prepared you to participate in God’s efforts to save many lives? God created you and He created you with the power to be His instrument to bring light into darkness and order into chaos. You are necessary. The sooner you believe it, the sooner you will bond with God in living a great story.
Create Your Story
The story of your life is a subplot in God’s story. Your story is made up of positive and negative turns. As your have seen, even people who walk with God experience suffering. But God can redeem any negative turn so it can be understood as a valuable experience. Finding a redemptive perspective on the negative turns is how you will see God redeeming all of the pain and suffering in your life.
The first thing to do is identify the positive and negative turns that have taken place in your life. These turns are entirely subjective. For some, a seemingly minor event in their lives may have been a story turn, and for others the events were heavy and monumental. A positive story turn might be as simple as winning a blue ribbon for your prize apple pie in the county fair or when you got an A in class for the first time and realized you had a brain. A negative turn might involve losing your job, a divorce, or the loss of a loved one.
Try to think of about 12 story turns. Spend time reflecting on the major events of your life. Start when you were young and think about experiences in which you suddenly realized more about yourself or about life in general. Try to put these turns in chronological order but don’t worry about specific dates. Study the negative turns and ask yourself what God has taught you in each one and how it has been cultivating a heart to serve the Lord in some way. Do you see a theme starting to emerge? If you don’t, pray and ask the Lord to give your heart clarity.