Can Disaster be the Will of God?
Bible Teaching by Nicky (Smith) Eatalapaka
Can disaster be the will of God? So often our lives can appear as a disaster area. No matter how hard we seem to try, things can and do go wrong. Some disasters are of our own making, whilst others just seem to be thrust upon us by circumstances. The danger is that we start to think that unless our lives are completely free from troubles, we are somehow failing as a Christian.
If we sin, then God can and will forgive if we repent, but sometimes the consequences of our actions continue after the event is long passed. Samson cut his hair and as a result suffered. God did not remove the consequences, but his strength was restored to enable him to gain the victory. If however, we find ourselves facing difficulties and troubles whilst doing the right thing, we can see that in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament, there are many things we can learn. He is one of the few people not listed as committing any sin and yet his life appears to be one of difficulties and troubles.
The first thing we notice in Genesis 37 is that Joseph is not liked because of his position of favourite in the family. Beloved of his father, he is hated by those closest to him. It is interesting to notice that when we are adopted by God as sons in Christ Jesus, and given a new robe, as Joseph was, our relationship with God so frequently becomes a source of trouble, especially to those we live amongst Jesus himself said, " if they hated me they will hate you also " - 1 John 15 v 18. When we have a relationship with God and those around us see it, there is a reaction, one that is frequently shown by resentment, criticizing and at times, in Joseph's case, violence and abuse. Joseph is not guilty of any sin by being his father's favourite. Humanly speaking, it is a sad family, which favours one child more obviously than another to provoke such anger, but here we must realize that our favour by God can provoke the same, and like Joseph, we did not cause the problem.
The next thing we notice about Joseph is that he has a vision for the future. His dreams show that his life has a purpose to it. In Christ, our life has a plan and purpose. We have a hope for the future. This is something, which again can be a source of trouble to those around us. The world does not always appreciate our declaration of hope for the future. The Christian can, like Joseph, confidently declare he is 'more than a conqueror', that he is 'seated above' the situation, not below etc. When we are bold enough to declare such things, those around us, even those close to us, may take offence. The trouble that we encounter from such things is not of our own making, just as Joseph's troubles were not related to sin. The fact that that Joseph believes God, becomes a challenge to his life. Psalm 105 v 17-21 declares that 'the Word of the Lord tried him'. Joseph boldly declares he will rule over his brethren and then he is sold into slavery! He declares that his family will bow down to him and then they vanish from his life for many years. So often we experience the same in our lives. Troubles come as a direct result of declaring what we believe. We declare our faith in Christ to provide and then needs seem to overwhelm us. We take a stand in faith that God can heal and we seem to get sicker than ever. Joseph experiences the same thing. He is 'tried' by the Word, until his time comes. We too are tried based on what we believe. If we experience difficulty, will we surrender our faith or continue? Will we compromise and give up to enable our way to become easier to bear? Whilst scripture does not openly state it, we do notice that Joseph is not recorded as rejecting what he believed, just because life became difficult.
In Genesis 39 v 1-6 we find Joseph learns to serve his master Potipher well, in a time of blessing and plenty (v6). Then his life takes another disastrous turn and he learns again to serve, but this time in prison, in a time of poverty and lack (v22-23). Joseph does his job so well that both Potipher and the jailer leave him to his own devises. The two situations of prosperity and poverty, he will later meet as Governor of Egypt. We however know the end of the story; Joseph had to live through it. Difficulties prepare us for what lies ahead. God is never slack concerning our preparation. His plans are always perfect. Here we see, in the midst of a bad situation that is, Joseph being sold, that the situation becomes worse when he ends up in prison, with no hope of release. Would Joseph have been so ready and willing to study management of people and resources so diligently, if he had remained at home? God it appears, chooses to prepare him by thrusting him into difficulties that force him to learn those things necessary for his future. None of us would choose the difficulties that at times are thrust upon us, but how often can we, like Joseph, look back with hindsight and see that God was actually preparing us for the future, in the midst of our difficulties. Only once in Genesis 40 v 14-23 do we see Joseph make an effort to get out of his situation. His efforts fail and he has to wait. It is again the perfect illustration of our lives and how we cannot escape God's plan, his training, and most of all his timing. When he opens the door, no man can shut it; however, until he does open it, no efforts on our part will succeed.
As we continue to look at Joseph, we see quite clearly four attitudes we could all do well to incorporate into our lives.
1. Do not moan about your situation. Joseph never bewails his hard times. If he had, possibly he would never have advanced as he did, despite his adverse circumstances. When we moan, our discomfort becomes a mountain. If we always declare how bad our circumstances are, we become unable to see any positive opportunities when they arise. Only once does Joseph try and escape and relate his situation to Pharaoh's butler. His difficulties are not the only thing he speaks of. We can possibly apply the same to ourselves.
2. The second thing we see about Joseph is his refusal to compromise on what he believes to be right and true. The first time we see it is with his dreams, which he boldly declares to his family. Do we consider him to be arrogant and outspoken, or is he really just declaring what he believes to be true, refusing to be moved by any possible consequences? In Potiphar's house, we again see this refusal to compromise. Potiphar's wife is NOT an option to him. He will not compromise to advance himself and as a result, suffers loss. Then in prison he relates the prisoners' dreams without any regard for how they will be received. Joseph is a man of principle; under pressure he will maintain what he believes to be true, even if it results in personal cost. This is an attitude we find God can and does honour repeatedly in scripture. David, Paul, Samuel, Joseph, Jepthah, etc. were all men of principle who, as result, were blessed in spite of the fact that their 'stand' frequently carried a personal cost. The person who compromises their principles, to their own personal gain when situations are adverse, is not really a person of principle at all.
3. The third attitude we see in Joseph is one of not holding grudges. Genesis 50 v 15-21 shows us Joseph bearing no resentment or malice towards his brothers. His brothers suffer fear and humiliation as a result of their sin, but Joseph seeks to bring no harm against them, only blessing.
4. We see also that Joseph could see God in all things. Genesis 47 v 4-5 and in Genesis 50 v 19-20, he openly declares that this was the plan and purpose of God. Possibly this was the secret of his strength in adversity, he saw God in his circumstances, in spite of the problems and troubles. To despair of our situation is to lose sight of God and his all-powerful control of our lives, both now and for all eternity. Joseph, in the midst of his disasters, appears to have had confidence he was in God's hands.
If we consider Joseph's life and it disasters, we also notice a remarkable similarity to Jesus and His life. We see Joseph as the 'beloved son' hated by his brethren. We see Jesus of whom God said, " This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased " - Luke 3 v 22. His brothers conspire against Joseph - Genesis 37 v 18. The High Priest conspires against Jesus and declares He will dies for the nation - John 18 v 14. We see Joseph sold for silver, the price of redemption, ultimately saving Israel from death in the famine, whilst Jesus is sold for silver to save us from eternal death. We even see Joseph seeking a way of release from his calling, when he tries to find a way of escape through Pharaoh's butler. Jesus too follows the same pattern in Gethsemane, asking if there is a way of escape from God's plan and purpose. Jesus is left for dead in the tomb, and yet is raised to life. Joseph's brothers believe he is dead, and lie to Jacob, as did the soldiers who were paid to lie about Jesus' resurrection. When the brothers meet Joseph in Egypt - Genesis 41v 13, they declare that Joseph 'is not'.
Both Joseph and Jesus are 'deliverers' of their people, but see again how the two men's lives are pictures of the same thing. Joseph, as the 'deliverer', is not recognized at first, when the brothers see him in Egypt, but on the second occasion there is weeping, repentance and recognition. Jesus was not recognized by Israel at his first coming, in spite of being their Deliverer, but on the second coming, Israel will weep as they 'look on Him whom they pierced' - Zechariah 12 v 10. Amen.' Reverend Nicky Smith