God’s Purpose My Pleasure!
God is good all the time; all the time God is good. Do we really live that? Is my/your life a reflection of that? It is a pleasure to stand here before you this morning to deliver the word of God to you, even though this past week may be deemed the one of the worse weeks of my life.
It has been a joy worshipping here at Faith Community with you for these eight Sundays I have been here in Canada. These weeks have been a great blessing as well as a great struggle as I strive to see God’s purpose in my life. Every sermon I have heard spoke to directly to me. I have been preaching for over 25 years, but this last year I have had more questions than ever about my faith, not doubt but struggles in waiting on God. I know that God had led me to this place in my life so that I can listen to Him better. So, I was ready to listen to another great sermon from pastor Spence. But then he called me last Saturday and asked me to preach for him this Sunday. I said to him as I usually say to anyone who asks me to preach “I never say no to an opportunity to preach.” And then he suggested this text of Genesis 48. I taught this book of Genesis (the life of Joseph) many times in my Old Testament History class, but as I looked at it to preach from it, with the current state of my life, I heard God saying to me “Okay, you have heard eight sermons about the working of My plan in the lives of others, now preach it to yourself about what I want to do for you and your family.”
So I have preached this sermon to myself many times as I prepared it, and I cried many of those times. Now, here I am to preach it to myself again and you are here for me to share it with you. I do believe that this is the case because, as it is with me, there are many here who are struggling with God’s purpose for their lives. Seeing that He has brought you here today, are you one of those persons? So, pull up your chair and let us listen to what He has to say to us – you and me.
We continue the old story of one of the favorite characters of the Bible-Joseph. Not many (if any) wrong doings are recorded are recorded of Joseph—but, maybe for his action in our text for today. Genesis 48 speaks to us about God’s Purpose; My pleasure?! or is it My pleasure?! Verse 17 is our springboard this morning. 17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. (NIV) You will agree with me that we all would like to triumphantly say God’s Purpose; is My pleasure?! For this to be so, I am sure some questions come to our minds—How to make His purpose my pleasure? Or What to do to make His Purpose my pleasure? These questions are answered by looking at the life of Joseph here in Genesis 48. In following the example of Joseph, three things jump out to us from these verses. They are that: we must SEARCH His Words 48:1-16, we must SURRENDER ourselves 48:17-18 and we must also SUBMIT to His Will 48:19-22.
The word of God speaks to us sometimes in such clear ways that we have no doubts about what to do, but then there are times when the way is not so clear. You know what I’m talking about? Like Joseph, we must be ready to Search out His Words. The searching of His words is the surest way to discover and understand His purpose for us . We may try other solutions but inevitably have to come back to His word. To conduct this search of His word it calls for us to Be in the Right place. In Genesis 48:1, it is said of Joseph “So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him.” Joseph went to Jacob with his sons because he knew, that, at this time, this was the place to hear from God. His father, Jacob, the patriarch was the priest of the family, and as such did the function of presenting his people to God and God to his people. Today, having come out of the patriarchal and Mosaic ages, we are in the Church age. Do you know the right the place to be to receive His word? Joseph, at his height as prime minister of Egypt, sought God’s purpose for the sons God gave him. As prime minster, he had all the material wealth he needed for his sons. But, he still searched His words. This past week, whom did you bring with you to receive from God? What about now? Last month? The right place to receive from God may be at your child’s bedside, at your breakfast table, or at what some may call your ‘family altar’. The right place is the place where His word about His purpose for you is shared—your family or morning devotions. Have you been there? Pull away from what you are doing right now. Be in the right place, with all of yours to hear His Words. It is a tragic thing to see parents going God’s way but then allow their children to go in a contrary way. You are here—in the right place. Now what?
Being in the right place is the first part to searching His words. The next is to Be Ready to Listen. Jacob started by saying “God Almighty appeared to me . . .” He wanted Joseph to know, without a doubt that the course he followed was divinely directed and provided for by the same divine power. Listen and understand about the goodness of God in the past. To learn from His purposeful goodness to others in the past, we have to set aside our personal agendas for ourselves and for those whom we have been given.
How do we listen to His word today? What filters do we use? Or, some may ask, what biases do we have as we come to listen? We ALL have biases; we must know what they are and then set them aside so that we can receive His full purpose and plan for us. In an age of the plethora of information, we are being programmed to satisfy our cravings and not our essential needs. The same is being practiced with His word; we are tempted to easily exclude from our intake anything that may not be to out liking. His word to us today—the Bible is not to be smorgasbord and it is not a book of myths but inspired literature to be understood through diligent study, be like the Bereans, study the word with great eagerness and examination (Acts 17:11)
You are in the right place, you are ready to listen, and now another approach to searching His words for His purpose--Be Ready to Share 48:2, 8-16. Jacob said “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” In doing this, he was -fulfilling his patriarchal responsibility. The search cycle may necessitate us being on the other side--the side to be ready to share. What do you share with those who come to you/you meet? Scripture/God –directed answers or self-based moral principles? Grandparent/parents/seniors, do you have the words of God to share?
George Barna, a Christian researcher shared his findings about the basis for the choices many make:
Practical Outcomes Replace Biblical Principles As the Moral Standard
When asked the basis on which they form their moral choices, nearly half of all adults (44%) cited their desire to do whatever will bring them the most pleasing or satisfying results. Roughly one-sixth of the adult public (17%) bases its moral decisions on what they believe will make other people happy or minimize interpersonal conflict. The same percentage (17%) credits the values they were taught by their family as the dominant influence on their moral considerations. About one out of four adults (24%) lean primarily upon religious principles and teaching or Bible content when making moral decisions.
While many religious leaders propose that the Bible should be the basis of people's morality, the survey showed that only four out of every ten born again adults relies upon the Bible or church teachings as their primary source of moral guidance. The percentage who identify the Bible or religious teaching as their dominant moral influence is noticeably lower among Catholics (16%) and attenders of mainline Protestant churches (25%).
This research was done in the US over ten years ago - September 10, 2001 Would you say that things have gotten better today, or here in Canada? Only four out of every ten born again adults rely upon the Bible or church teachings as their primary source of moral guidance. What would it say about you?
Here is a good advice from one of my devotions last week:
Build your children’s lives on the firm foundation of the Word. (Daily Bread-Mon. 09.26.11)
The word of God said Deut. 6:4-9: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (NIV)
Sometimes when you attempt to share you may receive negative feedback. I read somewhere about the great evangelist Billy Graham experiencing that. Billy Graham was in town to hold one of his crusades. One morning he went out to mail a letter but did not know the way to the post office. So seeing a little fellow on his bicycle he asked him the way to the post office. They boy told him. Then, he said to the boy, “Come to the crusade tonight, I will be telling everyone how to get to heaven.” The little boy responded by saying, “No. I would not come.” Billy Graham asked him why. He answered, “You don’t even know the way to the post office.” As you know, Billy Graham continued to share about God’s purpose. Would you?
Well, we have searched His word and in some ways shared it with others. But there is more to make His purpose your pleasure. Sometimes what you hear is not what you would like to hear or thought you should hear. These are the times when it is not a ‘pleasure’ to listen to Him. Joseph, at the height of the second highest position in Egypt, humbly searched for God’s purpose for himself and his sons. The unfolding of this was not to his liking. Like Joseph learned, we now have to learn to Surrender to Him. Surrender has to be discussed because not always are our ways His ways, or our thoughts His thoughts. As I asked myself, I have to ask you: Have ever been angry at/with God? Or, Have you ever tried to remove the hand of God/blessing? Or, Have you ever surrendered your past to God’s purpose? Your past may be littered with some bitter or unpleasant experiences. The hard part of all this is that some of those experiences may have been in your pursuit of doing what you thought/knew was God’s purpose for you.
In Genesis 48:17, we see what may be the only ‘bad’ thing recorded of Joseph—his displeasure with God’s purpose for him and his sons. 17 When Joseph saw his father placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head he was displeased; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. (NIV)
I asked myself what did it mean that Joseph was displeased. You ask the same question? According to the use of this word in other places in the Old Testament, this does not appear to be a mild displeasure; he was nearly angry or upset. Here is what Joseph’s displeasure was the same as:
in 2 Sam 11:25 Joab’s suspected feeling about the assassination of Uriah; in Gen 38:10 God’s reaction to Onan; in 1 Sam 8:6 Samuel’s feeling about Israel’s rejection of his sons and request for a king; in 1 Sam 18:8 Saul’s feelings about the women’s song about him and David; and in 2 Sam 11:27 God’s reaction to David taking Bathsheba after the murder of Uriah. The dictionary says the word is a primitive root meaning to be broken up (with any violent action) i.e. (figuratively) to fear.
I ask Why Joseph? Why? Joseph was Upset with his father’s action=God’s action, God’s purpose for him and his sons. Why was he displeased? Was it because of his Knowledge of what tradition dictates? Was he saying that God’s ways must go the way he knew they should go? “It has been done this way in this family; this is how it must always be. God has to understand that this is how we do things here.” Or, maybe Joseph was displeased with Jacob=God’s purpose to bless the younger above the older because of his Memories of his life – suffering the brunt of favouritism? Remember that he was favoured over his brothers and what did that bring him—their rivalry and rejection. He was not going to let that happen to his family. What Joseph experienced because of God’s purpose for him-Jacob’s favouring of him is what I like to call the affliction of ascension. God’s purpose for us is ALWYS for our ascension. Sometimes with that ascension comes the discipline of patience, the rejection and sometimes the jealousy of others. So having experienced this before or knowing of others who have experienced this, we are tempted to resist His purpose for us, our children, our loved ones. Leaders would always experience this.
It is a funny story told of President Bush. One day he, along with his special service security were hurrying through an airport. Pres. Bush saw who he knew was Moses standing in a far corner. Being a religious man, a Christian, he said to one of his security men, “Isn’t that Moses standing over there?” The security said, “Well, sir, he looks like Moses.” So the president said shouted out “Hi, Moses.” The man ignored him. So the president went over closer to him and called out again. Again the man ignored him. So, the president continued on his way saying under his breath, “I know that that man is Moses.” As he left the scene, one of the special service officers went over to the man and asked him, “Sir, are you Moses?” The man said, “Yes, of course, I am Moses.” The officer responded,” So then, why did you not speak to the president?” Moses responded, “The last time I spoke to a bush, I spent the next 40 years wandering in the desert.”
Were the harsh experiences of Joseph the reason for his displeasure with God’s Purpose? What he saw God doing right now in his life was not to his liking. What about you? What has God been showing you that He wants to do for or through you? Are you attempting to remove His hand? Are you fearing the Affliction of Ascension if His purpose were to be fulfilled in your life? God may have been showing you His purpose for you being here-to be involved in ministry, but you are not pleased with that because:
-the last time you _______________ all you got was criticism? Or maybe it is that, the last time you ________________ all you got was exploitation? Or is it that, the last time you ________________ all you got was non-recognition/indifference?
You see, I believe the devil knows that all God has for us is His Goodness, and he plays with our minds as he did with Eve to lead us to think that God’s ways may not be the pleasant ways for us. Don’t buy that!
SURRENDER YOUR PAST TO HIS PURPOSE it will become a PLEASURE. Is God’s purpose/plan for you to be involved in SS? in Awana? Ladies retreat? Outreach programs? Bible study group?
So often God’s words smack us right in the face with His plan for us. Oh, how well I know that. Two Fridays ago, as I was driving back home after dropping Shirley off at work, my situation got to me one more time and I pulled off the road and nearly screamed at God. I just asked Him one more time, “God, how much longer?”
I drove slowly home, got to do my devotion, right there staring at me was the title of the lesson– Staying the course. I say to you as I said to myself Surrender your experiences to Him and submit to His plan.
One side of the coin is Surrender and the other side is to Submit to His Will 48:19-22
After over 25 years of preaching His word, I am still learning how to do that. Have you got it all together already? See here with me what Joseph found out as Jacob=the hand of God assured him that God knew what He was doing. Joseph learnt that as you submit to God’s purpose, it is really then that You will become the person you were meant to be and in God’s view. Joseph is learning this, God said, “In your name will Israel pronounce this blessing” Do you remember his birth—Genesis 30:23-24 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph,[h] and said, “May the LORD add to me another son.”
Joseph, this is you being ‘Joseph’. Maybe you are as I was, asking what to do to make His purpose my pleasure. The lesson smacked me in the face again, that, It is not “What to Do?” but “Who To Be?” Accept the clarity of the matter that It is more of Relationship than Regulations. The pleasure of basking in God’s purpose for you, no matter what fears of the past maybe crouching at your door, will come when you remember who you are and be who you were meant to be. Is your past filled with bitterness? Have you been abused or abusing, rejected or rejecting, disowned or disowning? Then, this is what you have to Say to God Remind Me Who I Am – Jason Gray - (Play video)
Yes, Lord, remind me who I am; “I’M THE ONE YOU LOVE” that will be enough. But God has more for you as you submit to His will, here is what it is, You will be (continue to be) a blessing/inspiration to others.
His promise to Joseph of the blessing he will be to others through Ephraim was in these words ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.’” v 20
In the first census on Numbers 1, Ephraim, numbered 40,500 (10th) & Manasseh, 32,200 (12th). In the second census in Numbers 26, Ephraim, were 32,500 (11th) & Manasseh; were 52,700 (6th). The physical numbers may not seem to add up to supremacy, but history shows that Ephraim was the leader of one of the camps in the layout in the wilderness, out of Ephraim came many leaders of the nation, the name Ephraim was used to refer to Israel many times in Scripture, and when added up with Manasseh, Ephraim made Joseph more numerous than the other tribes.
Even so it will be with you and me, When you add it all up, you will be the best you when you work with His purpose for you. Don’t you agree, it will be all a pleasure to have His Purpose accomplished in you?.
I suspect that I am not the only one God is speaking to today. There are some here today with some real searching questions for God. Bea sent me this the other day– “In all the setbacks in your life as a believer, God is plotting your joy.” And from our younger son’s facebook page – “God’s dawn of deliverance often comes when the hour of trial is darkest.”
I do not know about you, but from what God’s words said to me, whenever God says He is working His purpose in me, I will say, God’s Purpose, it’s All My Pleasure. To have this: I Will Search His Words, and I Will Surrender Myself (all of my past), and I Will Submit to His Will (Remind me who I am). Would you join me in doing those?