Fruitful in Affliction - October 30, 2019
As appealing and exciting as being a Christian can be, those who have a personal relationship with Christ know that there are some not so appealing callings and verses we as Christians need to live out. One might even say it makes no sense to act out these callings, that it's quite absurd. We see throughout the story of Jesus as He came to fulfill the law, set the example, and save all mankind, that the people He interacted with, especially the Pharisees, watched Him closely to see how He acted and to see if He truly was the Messiah. After Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we see His impact in the lives of others throughout the rest of the New Testament and still today. After the gospels, there are more books influenced by the Holy Spirit, that give excellent instruction to the question of, “What now?”
One verse of instruction in particular makes me turn over at night because it does not follow the logic of most of society today and is, in my opinion, one of the hardest versus to apply in life. That is James 1:2-4. I would encourage you to go read it before reading the rest of this blog. For real, go read it.
Hey welcome back! Isn’t that a crazy verse!? I mean, we are supposed to, “Consider it pure joy” (NIV) when we face trials??? As you read the rest of the passage, this starts to make sense. The testing of our faith develops perseverance and that perseverance produces maturity. One of the many reasons I love this verse is because it is not just lived out in the New Testament. If we look at the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-50, we see a young man who is quickly put into situations where his manhood is developed, where he most definitely perseveres through many trials becoming more mature for what God had laid ahead of him. I’m sure as Joseph was going about his life, when he would find himself in another situation, he thought, “God where is this going? Is this really worth it?”
Currently, one of my favorite verses is Genesis 41:52. “The name of the second he called Ephraim, or God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (ESV)
This verse has so much more power to it when we understand the context of what’s going on and all that Joseph has been through. At this point, Joseph had just rose up in power and was given the charge to be over Pharaoh’s house and people (41:37-45). It is absolutely amazing to see Joseph go from being picked on by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, proclaimed dead by his family, accused of rape, thrown in prison, and neglected, to then being given rule of Egypt. Knowing this, it makes sense that Joseph would make such a statement in 41:52. However, if we look at what Joseph knows, this statement becomes peculiar. Joseph knew that seven years of famine were coming soon, yet he still gave praise to where God with where He had brought him. He was still able to look back, knowing that it was not going to be easy ahead, and say, “Thank you God!” How many of us need to change our mindset to be like Joseph? Can we be grateful for where God has brought us, being able to appreciate and see the goodness of the hardship in the past, all the while being optimistic and expectant that God will be faithful and provide within the hardship to come? News flash, Jesus, nor the apostles, ever said it would be easy. We see in John 16:33 Jesus says that, “you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” We also see Jesus in John 15 tell us to not be surprised if the world hates us because it hated Him first.
I can relate with Joseph a lot. I had a sport career ending injury in January of 2017. This ruined my chances of finishing my senior year track season and the opportunity to achieve my dream of competing at the collegiate level. This created a spiral of depression, anxiety, and suicidal struggles which still currently give me no choice but to choose to be renewed by the transformation of mind each and every day. To choose Him every moment. Through persevering, and through His grace, I was able to recover and compete at the collegiate level. I was ecstatic. It would have been easy to say what Joseph said, but unlike Joseph, I did not know what was ahead. I stopped track after my first year for a multitude of reasons regarding schoolwork, my back injury, and work. Here I am currently, having re-injured my back, not able to work, feeling stuck, lazy, and a little lost. However, I am struck by the story of Joseph and how significant is was that even though Joseph knew the hardship ahead, he chose to be optimistic and trusting. I can’t imagine being optimistic when I was in track here at Fort Hays, knowing what lied ahead. As we keep reading, the story of Joseph stands out to me even more so as he is reunited with his brothers. In Genesis 45, we see that Joseph realizes his hardships were not only for the betterment of himself with his own maturity and relationship with the Lord, but it was all also for the betterment of others well-being.
So, as Christians we need to take life in its entirety, and be optimistic, knowing that the trials we go through are not just for us. In the end, when His name is glorified… it is all worth it. It is worth the maturity. It is worth loving and serving others through our hardships. It is worth it, if it brings Him glory.