VIDEO Why, ‘All Things For Good: In the Family of Joseph’?

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20

When something bad happens in the life of a new Christian, they will often say, “Lord, why is this happening to me?” When something bad happens in the life of a mature Christian, they will often say, “Lord, why is this happening to me?” Same question, but different motivations. The new Christian may think it unreasonable that a bad thing happened. But the mature Christian knows problems are part of life in a fallen world. His “Why?” question is to discern from God what he can learn from the difficult situation—how he might grow in faith.

When the teenage Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, he no doubt asked the “Why?” question. At first, he may have thought, “What did I do to deserve this?” But later, his “Why?” likely turned into, “Oh, now I see why!” He realized God had sent him to Egypt to prepare a place for Jacob’s family to escape the famine in Canaan.

When you experience difficulties in life, it’s not wrong to ask “Why?” Just make sure you’re asking for the right reason.

There are no accidents in the life of a Christian.  Rowland Bingham


Alistair Begg – ‘All Things For Good: In the Family of Joseph’ (Genesis 50:20)

Pursued by Love

I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days,” opens the famous poem “The Hound of Heaven” by English poet Francis Thompson. Thompson describes Jesus’ unceasing pursuit—despite his efforts to hide, or even run away, from God. The poet imagines God speaking to him and saying, “I am He whom thou seekest!”

The pursuing love of God is a central theme of the book of Jonah. The prophet received an assignment to tell the people of Nineveh (notorious enemies of Israel) about their need to turn to God, but instead “Jonah ran away from the Lord” (Jonah 1:3). He secured passage on a ship sailing in the opposite direction of Nineveh, but the vessel was soon overcome by a violent storm. To save the ship’s crew, Jonah was thrown overboard before being swallowed by a large fish (1:15–17).

In his own beautiful poem, Jonah recounted that despite his best efforts to run away from God, God pursued him. When Jonah was overcome by his situation and needed to be saved, he cried out to God in prayer and turned toward His love (2:2, 8). God answered and provided rescue not only for Jonah, but for his Assyrian enemies as well (3:10).

As described in both poems, there may be seasons of our lives when we try to run from God. Even then Jesus loves us and is at work guiding us back into restored relationship with Him (1 John 1:9).

By:  Lisa M. Samra

Reflect & Pray

When have you tried to run from God? How did He provide rescue?

Jesus, thank You for lovingly pursuing me to offer rescue.

Praying in a Crisis

James 5:13-20

When was the last time you cried out to God about something other than personal issues? Sometimes we’re so engrossed in our own life that we fail to see the crises others face. Whether circumstances involve total strangers or hit close to home, it may feel as if such matters are too big for one person’s prayer to make a difference.

Well, don’t believe it. James 5:16 assures us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (NIV). In order to accomplish His will in Israel, the Lord used Elijah’s prayers in a mighty way, even though the prophet was just a human being like us.  

Almighty God is able to heal, bring peace, and change circumstances, and He has chosen to let His children participate in the process through prayer. He instructs us to talk with Him about everything (Phil. 4:6) and promises to hear and answer our requests that align with His will (1 John 5:14-15).

You can have an impact on the lives of others when you intercede on their behalf. So let news of a tragedy or problem—regardless of whether it affects you—become a catalyst to talk to God.

The Virtue of Having Enemies

“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)

It is no compliment to say about a Christian that he has no enemies, for that is the same as saying he has accomplished nothing. The apostle Paul had many bitter enemies, and they finally got him executed. In fact, almost all of the great heroes of the faith, through all the centuries since Satan gained his victory over Adam and Eve, have had to overcome bitter opposition from that wicked one.

So, instead of resenting our enemies, we should thank God for them, for they enable us to become more like our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Only through such experiences can we learn what it means to say with Paul: “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). Only if we have enemies can we learn to obey Christ’s difficult command to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

The Lord Jesus easily could have called on 12 legions of angels to rout His enemies (Matthew 26:53). Instead, He submitted to their vicious insults and cruel tortures, even praying in His agony on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The enemies of Christ killed Him, but had they not done so He would not have died for our sins, and we would be lost eternally. This is a mystery to ponder and difficult to comprehend, yet, as the Bible promises, “surely the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Psalm 76:10).

The enmity of men can thus be a channel of divine grace to the believer, for “tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3), and “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). HMM

The Soil and the Seed

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

“AN honest and good heart”—Our Lord’s parable of the sower in Matthew 13 is fairly familiar as a Sunday school lesson, but not so real in actual appreciation of its searching message. Every preacher ought to remember that he has four kinds of soil before him when he preaches, lest he be unduly discouraged if all fail to bear fruit.

Our old adversaries, the world, the flesh and the devil, are in evidence in this parable, but the order is reversed. The devil comes first, stealing away the seed sown by the wayside. He is the thief of sermons as well as of souls, and is ever at church. Those who do not understand the Word are simply those who make no effort to understand it! The trouble is not ignorance or inability to understand, for then the fault would not be theirs. They are not in earnest; they merely come to church and hear and go away. The message went in one ear and out the other, and often there is little between the ears to stop it! It is true that the Word is spiritually discerned, but these are not willing to be made spiritual; they do not give more earnest heed, and the Word does not profit them, not being mixed with faith. What booty they are for the devil, and how quickly he snatches away the seed!

Then there are those who hear the Word and receive it with joy. They not only hear, the Word makes an impression. They swallow it whole, but they merely “enjoy the sermon,” and while they may excitedly make a move, they have no real principle, and their profession fails for lack of perseverance. These lack “patient continuance” and fail to “continue in the perfect law of liberty,” though they joyfully look therein. Tribulation and persecution show them up, and they are soon offended. Theirs is weakness of the flesh.

Others hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are a problem. Just as it is not money but the love of money that God warns against, here it is not the world but love of the world that hinders the Word.

But, thank God, there is the good soil. There are those who with an honest and good heart receive the Word (Luke 8:15), and they bear fruit in different degrees. Some are more faithful than others, but the heart is honest and they mean business.

Along with this, one thinks of Hosea 10:12: “Break up your fallow ground.” Good ground must be broken. There is fallow ground that looks very solid and permanent, but it never can be productive until it has been plowed. Only weeds and thorns grow on fallow ground. There is much preaching today that is wasting the seed on ground that never has been prepared, and God tells us not to do that (Jer. 4:3). There is much prayer for showers of blessing that is amiss, for God will not waste showers on fallow ground. Christians and churches today do not like to be disturbed; they do not want the plow put in, but there can be no harvest without it! There is much talk about revival that overlooks this fact. The broken and contrite heart is God’s accepted sacrifice on our part. It takes broken clouds to give rain and broken clods to bear fruit. Do not look for harvest without first breaking up the ground.

The Birth of the Spirit

Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.—John 3:5

Jesus prepared His disciples for the reception of the Holy Spirit. This course of training is best revealed in John’s Gospel.

It is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we are born again into the kingdom of God. John makes clear what the new birth is not: “[Children] born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (1:13). The new birth is brought about by the Holy Spirit, and unless He is involved in it, then it is not a new birth at all.

Someone has described the new birth as “the change, gradual or sudden, by which we, who are the children of the first birth, through a physical birth into a physical world, become children of the second birth, through a spiritual birth into a spiritual world.” Just as you have to have brains to enter the kingdom of knowledge, an aesthetic nature to enter the kingdom of beauty, a musical sensitivity to enter the kingdom of music, an emotional nature to enter the kingdom of love, so you have to have a spiritual birth to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus, in His first reference to the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel, put His finger on the first step of the Spirit’s ministry in human life—the birth of the Spirit. Jesus said these words, not to a down-and-out, but to a member of the Jewish ruling council, a Pharisee. If Nicodemus, a morally upright religious leader, needed the Spirit, then we all need Him.

Prayer

O Father, I am grateful for this new life within—the new birth—and now I want more. This that I have experienced sets my heart on fire for life in all its fullness. Amen.

Further Study

Gl 5; Jn 1:13; Tit 3:5; 1Pt 1:23

What are the characteristics of those born of the Spirit?

What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”?

Moments of Spiritual Breakthrough

Romans 5:5

A spiritual experience is something that is felt. “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5), exclaims Paul.

Even the cerebral Pascal had to exclaim with astonishment, “Feeling! Joy! Peace!” Anyone who insists on not mixing emotion with his religion diminishes greatly the possibility of personal experience of the divine. It is like trying to fall in love without becoming emotionally involved.

In his autobiography Dwight L. Moody recalls: “Right there on the street the power of God seemed to come upon me so wonderfully I had to ask God to stay His hand.”

Charles Finney, whose writings greatly influenced William and Catherine Booth, in his memoirs describes in vivid terms his experience: “The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through me. It seemed to come in waves of liquid love. I wept aloud with joy and love.”

Stanley Jones describes the infilling which transformed his ministry: “The divine waves could be felt from the inmost center of my being to my fingertips. My whole being was being fused into one, and through the whole there was a sense of sacredness and awe—and the most exquisite joy.”

But moments of spiritual encounter are not only felt, they are moments of insight. The mind perceives truth in a supernatural way, it is illumined in a way which defies description but which is real beyond doubt.

Illumination came to Martin Luther through a sentence of the Creed: “I saw the Scriptures in an entirely new light; and straightway I felt as if I were born anew. It was if I had found the door of paradise thrown wide open.”

A further aspect of that which is perceived in spiritual experience is the sense of affinity, harmony or even unity which emerges between the experiencer and the created world. The created world often seems suffused with a new glory as a result of a divine revelation.

The actual moments of revelation are usually brief. Having entered into a new dimension, the presence of the Lord is sensed in a new way, not perhaps with the intensity of the original moment of glory, but nevertheless quite differently from anything known prior to that experience.

John Larsson, Spiritual Breakthrough