Maybe it's just me, but it has often been my experience that victories and progress are coupled with setbacks and difficulties. I used to say in Eger, that I always felt that the way the ministry moved and grew was "two steps forward, one step back". God's Word tells us that the promised land - the land of blessing and victory, the place of taking hold of the things that God has given us in Christ - is a land of hills and valleys. And in the promised land there were still battles that needed to be fought and enemies to wage war against. But of course, the important thing to remember is that the hills and the valleys were both placed there by The Lord and that he has a purpose with the hills, the valleys and the battles that we must fight. He wants to accomplish something greater than just our comfort. He wants to produce the fruit of godly character in us.
I started teaching the story of Joseph this past Sunday at White Fields. The main doctrine that really summarizes Joseph's life is the doctrine of providence. Providence means that when God seems absent and silent, that is often times when he is doing his most profound work. It means that with God, silence is not absence and hiddenness is not impotence. Providence means that God is working all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
Part of Joseph's story is that he begged to not be sold into slavery in Egypt, but God did not answer his prayer. But, what we know now is that if Joseph had not gone down to Egypt, everyone would have died -including him. And even more tragically, the Messianic line would have died out. There was no way Joseph could have understood the reason why God did not answer his prayer and save him from the terrible thing his brothers were doing to him. But Joseph is exemplary because he chose to trust in the loving kindness of The Lord, and he chose to trust in The Lord. He walked by faith and not by sight.
The story never tells us if Joseph ever lost heart or got bummed out, or questioned why God allowed this bad thing to happen. All we know is that later on, when he became a powerful person in Egypt, he was able to look back and see the hand of The Lord in everything that had happened to him - both being sold into slavery by his brothers, and being lied about and wrongfully imprisoned in Egypt.
I want to be a person like Joseph who walks by faith in the providence of God. Don't you? Lord, have your way in me, and may I produce much fruit for your glory and your pleasure.
Here's that teaching from this past Sunday if you are interested: