Our providential God is at work

In Genesis 45:4-5, we read:

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Genesis 45:4-5)

Many years before their shocking encounter, Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery. They were jealous of him. They wanted him gone. Instead of killing him, they sold him to a passing caravan. They told their father Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. 

Joseph, however, had not been killed. He was enslaved and brought to the land of Egypt. Through events that only God could orchestrate, a Jewish slave rises to power in Egypt. Joseph is more powerful than anyone in the land except the Pharaoh.

Joseph’s meteorite rise did not happen by chance. Rather it was orchestrated by God. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil God used to preserve the life of the nation of Israel. The family from whom He had chose to save the whole world. The Messiah would come through their family line. In the Messiah, they would be a blessing to the whole world. 

Our God has a plan. He is in control. Life does not happen by chance. It falls under the providential care of the Lord. That doesn’t mean life will always be easy. We are refined through trial (see James 1). It does mean life has meaning and purpose. We are not knocked through life like a pinball, rather we are guided by the loving and caring hand of God. You might not see it but God is there. He is working. He is guiding and accomplishing His purpose with your life. 

Trust in the Lord. Rely on Him in the good time and the bad. Our providential God is at work.

Let God not man dictate your value.

After Thanksgiving, everyone typically gets excited about the Black Friday sales. I know some of you are probably out there early taking advantage of those deals. Personally, I’m not one of them. I hate crowds, I don’t like getting up early and rushing out the house, and I’m definitely not looking to get in a fight over that year’s most popular toy for my kids — I just assume get them something else. While Black Friday isn’t my cup of tea, I do like a deal, which is why I look forward to Cyber Monday each year. Not only can you find really good deals on electronics, but I don’t have to battle the crowds to get them.

Now, there is nothing wrong with a deal by any means. I am always in search of a deal. But have you ever thought about why we get excited by deals? Why we are willing to get up early and fight the crowds or log onto our computer at just the right time? Besides the fact that we are saving money, I believe we get excited about these deals because we are seekers.

A seeker is someone who is attempting to find or attain something. That might be a deal. That might be the latest news or information. That is why we scroll endlessly on an app like Facebook. We are seeking out information in realtime. We want to be in the know. It is also why we do crazy challenges on apps like Tik Tok or obsess over our the look and feel of our Instagram feed. We are seekers, who not only seek out deals, the latest news, and information, but we also seek out the approval of others.

Seeking out the approval of man is not something that should drive our life. But if we are all honest, we are all guilty of it from time to time. Just so we are all on the same page, that phrase — the approval of man — can refer to a number of things.

I run a small photography business on the side. In order for that business to be successful, it’s important others approve of my work. If they don’t, no one is going to hire me. My goal, then, is not only to produce pictures I’m proud of but pictures that others approve of and are willing to pay me for. When I talk about seeking the approval of man or pleasing man, I don’t mean for us to completely disregard the approval or opinion of others. If we do that, we might be out of business or out of a job. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that we don’t find our ultimate worth or value in another’s opinion of us or our work. Tim Keller, Pastor, and Author puts it this way:

“It [seeking the approval of man] is a situation in which your desire for their blessing amounts to adoration and worship, and in which you give some form of human approval the rights and power over your heart that only God should have. It means you will be devastated by the loss of this approval as if you felt criticized or condemned by God.” (Galatians for You, 33).

When I talk about seeking the approval of man, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about us elevating the approval of others to an unhealthy place. To a place where we are allowing them to dictate our life, or determine our value and worth. That’s not healthy, nor is it right. God is the only One we should ultimately seek to please. He is the only One who is supposed to dictate our life, our value, our worth.

Let the gospel empower you to run the Christian race with endurance

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb 12:1)

Many have come before us and Lord willing many will come after us. We are not the first and only generation to follow the Lord. We exist in a long line of witnesses (see Heb 11). These witnesses should serve to bolster our faith in the Lord. When life is not going as planned, we can think back to Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel and others and meditate on how they continued to trust in the Lord despite the adversity they faced.

Our God is a faithful Lord who is worthy of our trust and worship. We should, as the writer exhorts in today’s verse, lay aside our burdens and the sin that clings to us and faithfully run towards the Lord with endurance.

How do we run with endurance?

We look to Jesus and the good news of His sacrifice on our behalf. The writer continues in verse 2,

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

If we are wavering in our trust, if our burdens seem too heavy, and sin too appealing, we need to look to Jesus. We need to mediate on, preach the gospel to, ourselves. The gospel should both warn us and encourage us. On the one hand it should warn us. Our sin is so repugnant its wages is death. But on the other hand, our God loves us so much that He was willing to pay the penalty for sin Himself so as to rescue us from its misery and outcome.

Let that sink in. God died the death we deserve so that we might experience release from the bondage of sin and death. What an amazing God we serve!

On this cold winter’s morning, turn to Jesus and let Him warm your heart, let Him and His cross work melt your burdens and sin away so that your affections grow hot for Him. Praise Him! Worship Him! Trust in Him! Run the race set before you with endurance!

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin

Believe it or not, God puts his grace and mercy on display by pointing out sin. In Jonah 4, God comes to Jonah and says,

…“Do you do well to be angry?””

(Jon 4:4)

In other words, God asks Jonah: What right do you have to be angry at Me saving the Ninevites? Do you see what God is doing? He is pointing out Jonah’s sin. He is revealing his heart.

Not the first time

This isn’t the first time God has pointed out the sin of another. Way back at the beginning of the Bible is the story of Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel both brought God a sacrifice. God accepted Abel’s instead of Cain’s. This made Cain angry. God seeing Cain’s anger comes to him and says,

“The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

(Gen 4:6–7)

God is extending grace and mercy to Cain by pointing out his sin and the consequences of it. If you continue through the story, you find Cain doesn’t rule over his sin. He allows it to attack and rule over him. He eventually rises up against his brother and kills him. Cain ends up banished from his people forever. I’d like to think God’s words to Jonah would have made a connection back to this story in Jonah’s mind, just as it should for us.

When God points out sin, it is an act of grace and mercy.

God could have left Jonah to stew in his own sin but God doesn’t do that. Instead, He extends grace and mercy by pointing out Jonah’s sin.

God could allow us to stew in our sin, but He doesn’t. He brings others into our lives to point out our sin, so the next time your spouse, neighbor, coworker, or friend points out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy instead of getting angry with them. The next time you are reading a book and God’s uses its message to point out your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep reading instead of throwing it down. The next time a song or sermon reveals your sin, praise God for His grace and mercy and keep listening instead of tuning out.

Our God is a gracious and merciful God and He puts His grace and mercy on display when He points out our sin.

Be a refreshment to others through your love

“For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” (Philemon 1:7)

We should seek to refresh one another in the faith, being a blessing to them. We should be a joy for others to be around. We should love others in such a way that they are reinvigorate them rather than deplete their energy.

Philemon was a refreshment for Paul so much so that Paul gained much love and comfort from Philemon’s sacrificial love for him. Oh, how we should should long for someone to say the same about us. That we refresh them. That they derive much joy and comfort from our love.

May we be refreshing brothers and sisters in Christ.

When God awakens us to our sin, we shouldn’t despair

Yes, our sin hinders our relationship with God, but we shouldn’t despair – we shouldn’t feel hopeless. In the beginning of Jonah 2:4, we learn that Jonah feels as if he has been…

“‘…driven away from [God’s] sight;’”

(Jon 2:4a)

The word Jonah uses for “driven” carries the idea of being forced out, to be forced away from. It’s what I do to our dog when he comes in the kitchen while I’m preparing food. I drive him out of the kitchen back to his bed.

As Jonah is sinking down to his watery grave, Jonah felt as if he was forced out of God’s sight. But even though Jonah felt that way, he didn’t despair. In the remainder of verse 4, he says,

“yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’”

(Jon 2:4b)

The reason Jonah didn’t despair, the reason Jonah wasn’t hopeless, even though he felt like he had been driven from the Lord, was because he knew the Lord was a God of loyal love. Because God is a God of loyal love, we can turn back to the Lord through repentance.

The same is true for us. While our sin hinders our relationship with God, we can always turn to Him because He is a God of loyal love. You haven’t messed up so big that you are driven from God’s sight forever. You can repair your relationship by repenting. That’s exactly what we should do when we discover we have sinned against God.

When God awakens us to our sin, we should repent, turning back to the Lord.

We should repent, turning back to the Lord even though we might feel as if we have been driven from God’s presence because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.