Friday, February 19, 2016

Alone but Not By Myself, Part 2


Last week, we talked about how Joseph did not fall into the footsteps of his parent’s dysfunction. In spite of being hated by his brothers, Joseph grew up to be a great leader. Like Joseph, many go into life with the odds stacked against them. Unless one commits himself to Jesus Christ in all things, the odds usually win out.

 

Today, Joseph is going to teach us about loyalty. Many wives get an anniversary present each year. The husband comes home and takes the wife out to dinner and brings home flowers. But that’s it. The man doesn’t date her the rest of the year. He doesn’t tell her that he loves her. Any wife would be happy to trade one day of recognition for 364 days of loyal love, even if they only go to a fast food restaurant.[1]

 

Some of us think we are great if we are faithful to God one day a week, Sunday. Or, some are satisfied with one Sunday a year, Easter. “I did something great for God that day.” God wants to know about all of the other days of your life. He wants your faithfulness and loyalty spread out evenly. God isn’t concerned about the occasional biggies you do for him. He wants a loyal follower.

 

Joseph was sold into slavery and became a manager for Potiphar’s home. Potiphar was an official in Pharaoh’s court. God placed Joseph in this setting to test his loyalty.

Genesis 39:1-10 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

Eventually, Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph’s clothes. Joseph runs out of the house, leaving his garment in her hand. When her husband came home, she showed him Joseph’s clothes and made up a story about how he tried to harass her. Potiphar had Joseph locked away in prison.

When this happened to Joseph, he was probably in his twenties. If anyone had any excuses to get tangled up in a sin and scandal, it was Joseph. He was sold away into slavery by his own brothers. Instead, Joseph built a resume as a dependable manager. He was handsome and articulate. Joseph had the ability to build Potiphar’s empire.

When women made advances toward Joseph, it was no surprise. He was young, strong, smart, and successful. However, the last thing Joseph needed was his boss’s wife hitting on him. Joseph’s character was put to the test.

Joseph had every excuse to fall into temptation. He had been hated, sold out, and left for dead. For goodness sake, his father had four wives. Being a womanizer was in Joseph’s blood. After all, Joseph could only take so much pressure, right? However, Joseph feared God more than his boss’s wife. He had a love of God that was displayed in loyalty. In verse 9, Joseph asked Potiphar’s wife, “How could I do this evil thing against God?”

This week the entire country is focusing on love. It is Valentine’s Day. Love is a virtue that is so complex; it has many attributes. The Bible demonstrates this in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Joseph would add one more quality to the mix. Love is loyal. Back up, take a long look at yourself and think about what it takes to have meaningful relationships. Make a list. I guarantee you that any real list of qualities for significant social, professional, and romantic relationships will include loyalty.

When God Seems Silent, Loyalty Matters

Loyalty matters in your workplace. If your boss sees the inconsistency in your work life, do you think she will promote you? Inconsistent behavior creates insecurity. People cannot depend on you or learn how you operate.

“Suppose a person went to their boss and said, ‘Boss, I know I’ve been doing a sloppy job, but the reason I’ve been doing a sloppy job is because you haven’t given me a promotion. If you promoted me, I wouldn’t do a sloppy job. So I tell you what you do, Mr. Boss—you give me that promotion and then you’ll see how I can really work!’ Not only would that person not receive a promotion, they will be going job hunting. Why? Because that’s not how it works. Christians many times want to give God slop and ask God for blessings. It doesn’t work. God wants faithful people—people he can count on.”[2]

Loyalty matters in your church. Eighty-three percent of persons in the United States do not attend church on a given weekend. This is why 3500 churches close each year. Each time a church closes her doors, an outpost for meeting needs and resourcing families goes dark.

The reason churches are not doing so well is because they are plagued with fake Christians. A fake ID is generally used to give the impression that a young person is older than they really are. Many Christians in the world with a fake ID. They give the impression that they are committed to Jesus Christ, when they are not. However, the baby Christian is easy to spot. They do not see the importance of getting into community with other believers.

The local church is Jesus’s plan to reach the world with the Gospel. It isn’t a fad like a diet that you try for a while and quit. The church isn’t a hobby like golf that you enjoy when you have time. Church isn’t a charity that you support with your leftover money like the Red Cross. Church isn’t a school that you attend until you feel you’ve learned enough. The church isn’t a counselor that you go to until you have your life back together. The church is Jesus Christ at work in this world.

Loyalty matters in your marriage or singleness. One of my mentors told me to make a list of all the lives and relationships sexual immorality would damage or destroy. For me, sexual immorality would damage or destroy my relationships with my wife, three kids, my future grandchildren, my family, my in-laws, every person who has attended a church I have served, my friends and colleagues all over the world, and my community.

Let me ask you about loyalty. Would you intentionally physically harm your spouse or children? Would you intentionally hurt your coworkers? However, if you engage in inappropriate behavior outside of your marriage, you will bring more pain into your circles of family and friendships than a physical assault. Is loyalty worth it? You better believe it.

When I think of the pain and heartache I have observed in those who have been impacted by someone else’s lack of loyalty, I can see feel the hurt myself. Illicit affairs and secrets have brought more depression and grief than murder or assault.

Those who are single, you have a tremendous role model in Joseph. Joseph could have made a mockery of his faith by giving himself away outside of marriage. However, Joseph knew that intimacy was to be enjoyed in the sacred bonds of matrimony. One’s loyalty is to God first.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.

Joseph has a lot to teach society today. Today, people are afraid to make commitments. They get discouraged. They settle for less than God’s standard. Everyone wants someone to love them unconditionally, but no one wishes to be first in line to show this kind of love. Selfish behavior is the norm.

Joseph placed loyalty above lust. He honored his earthly master, Potiphar. Joseph acknowledged his Heavenly Master, God. Joseph, even though she did not see it this way, honored Potiphar’s wife. Joseph honored himself.

Did you notice Joseph’s question in verse nine?

Genesis 39:9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

The power of God’s grace in our lives allows us to do something simple, but important. Be loyal to God. Even when no one is looking, be loyal. If someone asks you to go to a place that is not good for you or your walk with God, be loyal. If someone asks you to compromise at work or school, be loyal to God. If you are tempted with pornography or an unhealthy relationship, be loyal.

Why do you iron your clothes? You want to get the wrinkles out. A fiery hot trial is applied to your clothes so that you can be wrinkle-free. Sometimes God presses the wrinkles out of our lives because those wrinkles in our character don’t reflect well on him. Are you going through a fiery, hot trial right now?  Are you being tested?

Your loyalty will be tested. Each day is like a pop quiz. Some seasons in your life are like semester exams. These tough times of stress and pain give you an occasion to grow in your endurance.

James 1:3-4  For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

On the fish hook, the worm entices the fish so that the fish can end up on the dinner plate for the fisherman. It is an enticement. The bear does not go looking for a bear trap. The mouse does not search for a mousetrap. What entices the mouse is the cheese. But, the cheese is set on the trap, and because of the strong urge and desire for cheese, the mouse does not realize that it is a trap. Therefore, it is enticed or deceived by something legitimate to create an opportunity for the destruction of the prey.

Many of us get caught up in trouble because our own desires trapped us. We want affirmation, pleasure, relief, or something similar. We climb right onto the trap because we thought we had to have whatever we saw in the trap. However, God offers us everything we need in Jesus Christ. With Jesus, there is no trap. We find freedom in Jesus.

You cannot help your relationship with your spouse by having an affair. Drugs and alcohol will not fix your addiction. More lies cannot solve a lie. Be loyal to God. Life will bring its share of trials and temptations. Shortcuts make things look easy. Do not give in to the temptation. Please God and love him above all else.

Lessons in Loyalty

1. A growing relationship with God is an interstate with a starting point and a destination. Stay on the main road and avoid the exits.

Joshua 24:14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

2. Being loyal to your relationships means recognizing and responding appropriately when you are in danger.

Psalm 37:5-6 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

3. Many older couples say that the secret to a successful marriage is something like this: “We decided God was going to be the center of our marriage and that we were committed to his plan for us no matter what.”

Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

4. The only person you can control is yourself.

Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control.”

Loyalties will be broken from time to time. When we fail, we ask for forgiveness.

One of the things I loved to do at T.R. Simmons Elementary School was to write on the blackboard. Whenever Ms. Hubbard or Ms. Lewis requested a volunteer, I was glad to stand up and write on the blackboard. One of the great things about writing on the blackboard was if you misspelled a word or made a mistake on a math problem, there was always an eraser on the chalk rail to get rid of the error.

 

Forgiveness is the eraser on God’s chalk rail. When we make a mistake, we ask God to remove the error and let us try again.



[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2009), 100.
[2]Ibid, 100.