When Things Go Wrong

Sun, Mar 01, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull
Duration:26 mins 15 secs

Message text

When Things Go Wrong
Genesis 37: 1 – 28

Years ago there was a TV show called “The Honeymooners”. Jackie Gleason was its star, & Art Carney played his best friend & neighbor, Ed Norton.
Ed was a happy-go-lucky, but fairly slow thinking, worker in the sewer systems of the city. And Ed once summed up his “philosophy of life” with these words:
“When the tides of life turn against you, & the current upsets your boat, Don’t waste tears on what might have been, just lie on your back & float.”
This morning I want to talk about someone who repeatedly saw the tides of life turn against him - whose boat was upset more than once - someone whose difficulties would have crippled the faith of a weaker person.
But he didn’t sink - & he didn’t even float. He rose above the waves of adversity. He overcame his difficulties because his “philosophy of life” was nobler & wiser than Ed Norton’s. Who was he? His name was Joseph.
In some ways it is rather amazing that Joseph, the son of Jacob, ever amounted to anything. His father, Jacob, with 2 wives & 2 concubines fathered 12 sons & an unknown number of daughters. Joseph had 10 older half-brothers & one full brother younger than he.
His mother, Rachel, who was Jacob’s favorite wife, had died a few years before, giving birth to his younger brother, Benjamin.
Because Joseph was Rachel’s first child, & had been born in Jacob’s old age, it was obvious to his 10 older half-brothers that Joseph was “Daddy’s favorite”.
And this favoritism became painfully obvious in their eyes when Jacob gave Joseph a very fancy coat of many colors.
We sometimes talk about sibling rivalry & dysfunctional families. Well, it is clear here that his half-brothers were absolutely hostile to Joseph. Genesis 37:4 reports, "And his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers. So they hated him & could not speak to him on friendly terms."
Joseph had another problem. Not only was he his father's favorite son, but he appears to be a rather naïve 17-year-old teenager – naive in not realizing how much his half-brothers hated him.
Consider two dreams Joseph had. In Genesis 37:7-8 he told his half-brothers, "We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose & stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine & bowed down to it."
“His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream & what he had said.
Then in vs. 9 he told them, "I had another dream, & this time the sun & moon & 11 stars were bowing down to me." By this time the hostility was so evident that even his father Jacob felt that it was necessary to rebuke Joseph.
Now, if you have studied the life of Joseph, you know those dreams were prophetic. The dreams came from God, & they showed what God planned to do in Joseph’s life. But the fact that Joseph thought his brothers would be excited about these dreams shows us just how sheltered & naïve Joseph really was.
The rest of this story is a familiar one. The older brothers were tending their father's flocks some distance away from home & Jacob had not heard anything from them. So Jacob sent Joseph to see about them. And, of course, Joseph wore his fancy coat for the trip.
I wonder how you would have felt if you were one of Joseph's brothers & saw him wearing that coat? Well, when they saw him coming, that coat of many colors was like a red flag waving in their faces. So they plotted against Joseph.
Most of them wanted to kill him. But Reuben, the oldest brother, suggested that instead of killing him that they throw him into a deep reservoir & just leave him there to die. That way they wouldn’t be guilty of shedding his blood. Vs. 22 says that “Reuben said this to rescue him from them, and take him back to his father.”
So when Joseph got to their camp they seized him, stripped off his coat, & threw him into a reservoir. But then, as they were eating, they saw a slave caravan passing by on its way to Egypt.
Judah, another brother, had a bright idea. "Let's sell him to these people. We'll save ourselves from the guilt of murder, & we'll even make a little money on the side." So vs. 28 tells us that they “pulled Joseph up out of the cistern & sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt."
Wow! How quickly things can go wrong. One moment, Joseph was the pampered son of a prosperous farmer & herdsman with bright hopes of a happy future. The next moment, he was a slave. "They took Joseph into Egypt."
APPL. One reason we remember Joseph is the fact that his story is so relevant today. We have all experienced things going wrong in school, at work, in marriage, in our health, & in our hopes.
Joseph lost his fancy coat, his pampered position, & his freedom. So when things go wrong, Joseph is a good example to consider.

One thing we learn from Joseph is that when things go wrong, we may or may not be responsible. Sometimes we are, sometimes we aren't. In one way Joseph was, & in another way he wasn't.
The cause of his trouble was the hatred of his brothers. That hatred was fanned by two flames.
One was his lack of sensitivity to the feelings of his older brothers. The other was the unmistakable & unconcealed favoritism of his father.
And you can make out a good case for the fact that the first trouble was caused by the second. If Jacob had shown more sense in dealing equally with all his children, as every father should, Joseph would never have supposed that he was anything more than the little brother of the big boys.
APPL. But, be that as it may, the story suggests that when things go wrong we may or may not be responsible.

A. Sometimes we are. Whenever our difficulty arises from a condition which is the consequence of our own choices, we are responsible.
A girl falls in love. She romanticizes her sweetheart. She ignores or downplays his faults. We say that "love is blind," but it is often a self-induced blindness in which she convinces herself that he will change after they are married.
He proposes & she supposes that life with him will be blissful. So, they are married.
Gradually, or sometimes suddenly, the romance fades, & she finds that life is not like what she thought it would be. He is not about to change, & things go wrong. But say what you like, in a very real sense she is responsible. It was she, & no one else, who said "Yes."
That is why God gives guidelines about friendship & marriage. He wants to help us make right choices. And we ignore them to our own dismay.

B. But sometimes we are not responsible.
ILL. We work hard & save for our old age & inflation cuts our savings in half. We study hard & earn a degree & get a good job. Promotions come & the future looks bright. But then the economy changes, & our job is gone, & we find ourselves having to start all over again.
Jeremiah 31:19 says, "The fathers eat sour grapes, & the children's teeth are set on edge.”
Maybe you have heard this interesting statement, "He met misfortune like a man... he blamed it on his wife."
Our human tendency is to evade responsibility, but it is true that sometimes, when things go wrong, we are not responsible.

So, when things go wrong, we may or may not be responsible for the cause, but we are responsible for the result, & the result often depends upon how we meet the situation.

A. I wish we knew what went on in Joseph's mind as he was being taken as a slave down into Egypt. He could have reacted bitterly toward God.
He could have said, "So this is the way you run things. What have I done to deserve this? I was trying to do what my father told me to do. I was out looking for my brothers & report back home. I was doing my duty, & this is the result."
"God, I'm through with you. I've always tried to follow your rules & do what is right, but look at what it has gotten me. From now on I’m going to do what I want!"
SUM. When things go wrong, many people take that attitude. They blame God & quit. They go their own way, & God no longer has any place in their lives.

B. But there are others who say, "I may not be responsible when things go wrong, but I am responsible for what I do about it." So, they meet the situation, not with bitterness or cowardice, but with courage & determination.
That is what Joseph did. And even as a slave, he soon received honors & responsibilities. Then Potiphar's wife tried to entice Joseph to sin. But what did Joseph do? He steadfastly refused to defile himself & sin against God.
Again, things went wrong. Because he did the right thing, he was lied about by his temptress, arrested, & imprisoned. While doing what was right the first time he had been sold into slavery, & now he has been put into prison! Why should he remain faithful to God?
Can you hear him talking to himself in prison? "I may or may not be responsible for what has happened, but I am responsible for what I do about it."
He refused to become bitter & blame God. Instead, he met his trials with courage & a determination to keep doing what was right. So finally, when the time came, he was ready to fulfill the role in history that God had prepared for him.


A. There is a third thing that we can learn from Joseph. First, when things go wrong we may or may not be responsible. But second, we are responsible for what we do about it.

B. Third, with God's help the result can be better than we ever dreamed possible.
For example, Joseph's predicament turned into a tremendous personal blessing. He ultimately became Prime Minister of Egypt & his rise to power was directly related to his so-called "bad luck."
Had he never been sold into slavery, he would never have met Potiphar.
Had he never met Potiphar, he would never have been put in prison.
Had he never been put in prison, he would never have met Pharaoh's baker.
Had he never met Pharaoh’s baker, he would never have been asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams.
Had he never interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, he would never have been made Prime Minister of Egypt..

C. You see, sometimes success is nothing but failure turned inside out, & no one needs to be defeated because out of every situation he/she can emerge a better person if he/she has the will to do it.
ILL. Someone said, "If life gives you a lemon, then make lemonade!"
An oyster takes a grain of sand which irritates it, & so the oyster tries to get rid of it. When it cannot, it takes that grain of sand & makes a pearl.
Thomas Edison, when he was a boy, received a blow on his ear which made him deaf. But he said later that his deafness kept out distractions & helped him concentrate, & that ability to concentrate was largely responsible for his success in his experiments.
ILL. In one of George MacDonald's books he tells of a woman who experienced sudden sorrow. "I wish I'd never been made," she complains bitterly. To which her friend quietly replies, "My dear, you're not made yet! You're only being made - & this is part of the Maker's process."
APPL. What happens to us is never the most important thing. The most important thing is how we react. Joseph teaches us that even the worst difficulties can produce great results.

D. But the story doesn’t end with Joseph's becoming Prime Minister. Because he was elevated to that high position, he was able to save not only the people of Egypt, but also his brothers, their families, & his elderly father, too.
The famine in Palestine drove his family to Egypt in search of food. And Joseph, through his influence, provided homes & land for them in Egypt.
APPL. When things go wrong, we often have a chance to help not only ourselves but to render a service to others, too.
ILL. A man was in an automobile accident & his eyes were injured. The surgeon told him that he could save one eye, but the other eye would have to be removed & a glass eye inserted. It was a terrible moment for him. But finally he smiled & said, "All right, but if you have to put in a glass eye, please put a twinkle in it."
Do you know people like that? See what life did to them, & what they have done with life. They have taken the lemon, & made lemonade!

When something goes wrong we may or may not be responsible for the cause, but we are responsible for the result. Meeting the situation with determination & courage, the result can be good.
But, most importantly, our courage & determination can feed on the assurance that God is our friend & is always standing by to help.
Do you remember that dramatic scene in the last chapter of Genesis? Joseph had brought his family to live in Egypt. The brothers who sold him into slavery were now completely in his power.
Finally, their father Jacob dies, & after his death, the brothers are very afraid. Fearing the worst, they throw themselves down before Joseph & beg his forgiveness.
Joseph answers, "Do not be afraid... You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)
What an example Joseph sets for us today! To believe when things go wrong, that it is not God's doing, but man's misdoing.
To believe when things go wrong, that there is a loving God who really desires the best for us.
To believe when things go wrong, & despite what others do, that God can bring good out of the evil that has been done.
To believe when things go wrong, that God still loves us & has a purpose He wants to accomplish with our life.

Based on a sermon given by
Melvin Newland


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