Temptation Resistant Faith
Text: Genesis 39
Proposition: How we resist temptation can become the means for how God directs the next steps of our lives.
Introduction: For those who tend to spill we have stain resistant clothing, for those who like to camp we have leak resistant shelter, for those who farm we have drought resistant grain, for those who love fashion we have fade resistant colors and shrink resistant fabric. For the concerned we have tamper resistant bottles and mould resistant foods. We have debt resistant mortgages, inflation resistant investments, depreciation resistant cars and layoff resistant careers. The pursuit behind all this is to attain that which is immune, impervious, immutable, impenetrable and immovable. In our pursuit to make our world failure resistant we have missed the emphasis on building leaders and people that are failure resistant. What we have failed to see is that failure resistant people are built from temptation resistant people. So what is it that makes some more resistant to temptation than others? Is it possible that there is such a thing as a temptation resistant faith, a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that sees people, problems and power from the unusual perspective of God’s revealed will? We’ve been looking at the story of Jacob and his twelve sons, particularly the one named Joseph. There is something unique about Joseph, it distinguished him from his brothers and it sets him apart even now as a slave in Egypt. What I see in Joseph is something each of us is able to have, a faith that pursues the Lord to such an extent that temptation has little room to enter. Here’s the main premise for this morning, ‘How we resist temptation can become the means for how God directs the next steps of our lives.’ Let’s see if that’s really true for us as well. Turn to Genesis 39.
I. The Temptation to Be Bitter is Resisted By Faith.
One moment a favoured son, the next moment a slave to be bought or sold, I would say that is a massive shift in expectation for Joseph. One moment my Mom was walking along a sidewalk, the next moment she had fallen and broken her leg. The plans of travel and laughter and fun were replaced by a wheel chair and months of recovery. It’s amazing how fast our lives can change, how fast the expectations of life are changed right before our eyes. When what I expected of life is not what I get dealt in life there can be an anger that smoulders under the surface. Sometimes we don’t even know what we want, we just don’t want what we presently have and that’s bitterness. Joseph had every opportunity to be embittered over his situation and yet he wasn’t bitter. Faith, it seems, creates a stain resistance to bitterness. When you think of Joseph you might wonder just how deep his faith was, what did he believe, what did he hold to be true about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Had Jacob told his son about the way God led Abraham, how God tested Abraham, how Isaac found Rebecah, how Jacob met and married Rachel, the wrestling match with the angel, the dream of the ladder going up to heaven, the great promises of God for this land and posterity? Faith in what God has done points us in the direction of what God is about to do. In that sense faith builds the very expectations that struggle and circumstance can conceal. Joseph wasn’t bitter, he served his new master with an enthusiasm and creativity that caught his masters eye.
II. The Temptation to Coast is Resisted By Faith.
The thing about coasting is that it can only be done if you are going downhill. You can’t coast your way up a mountain, you can’t coast through a swamp or bog. The temptation to coast is really the temptation to give up and take whatever the easiest path might be. Romans 5:1-3 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… and not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” So there’s hope, or expectation, that is connected to faith and not only that but perseverance is also connected to faith. Joseph had faith that God has used tribulations and likely will use tribulation in order to produce perseverance. How long do you think that Joseph was a slave in Potiphar’s house? It was eleven years, he was 17 when taken as a slave, 28 when thrown into prison and 30 when he stands before Pharoah in 41:46. How many times was Joseph tempted to just give up and yet he didn’t? I can only attribute that to his faith which refused to be swayed by his circumstances, he lived by faith and not by sight. That’s exactly the same for you and I, it is our faith in Jesus Christ that enables us to be resistant to the very exasperation that causes feelings of drifting and futility. Those are the very doors that temptation will often use to enter our lives. Exasperation says, “I’m out of gas”, faith says “I’m empty Lord, fill me again.” In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man”…, and then a few verses later he adds, “to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
III. The Temptation of Lust is Resisted by Faith.
Have you ever seen that triangle (could you pop up a slide with this triangle) that they use to explain fire fighting, they have fuel, oxygen and flame, one at each point of the triangle. Effective fire fighting seeks to remove at least one of these points. Take away oxygen and the fire goes out, take away the fuel, same thing and so on. Lust is like a fire, maybe even a small fire at first but it is out of control. It says Potiphar’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph and began to entice him, suggestively at first but more and more she became aggressive and insistent. The triangle of fire is closely paralleled by the triangle of worldly temptation. In 1John 2:16 it says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” For Potiphar’s wife it began with the lust of the eyes, it grew to the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life is where it exploded. So what enabled Joseph to resist this fire that had the fuel of passion, the oxygen of opportunity and the flame of shamlessness? Joseph seeks to remove the fuel of passion with reason. He reasons with her that this would be a betrayal of Potiphar’s trust, it would be irresponsible, a wrong response from what was reasonably expected of him. But the main reason is that this would be “a great wickedness and sin against God.” It wasn’t just wrong or hurtful or a disappointment, it was sin and a sin against God. Joseph knew that sin is not just a wrong action towards others, but that it is primarily a wrong action toward God. Calling sin for what it is, will move you from reasoning about it to repenting from it. Joseph had a theology which informed and drove his faith and his faith is what directed his actions. But Potiphar’s wife had no such theology, no such faith, no such resistance to temptation and to sin. She continually approaches Joseph until finally her passivity is gone and she creates perfect opportunity, they are alone together in the house. Sometimes the only thing you can do to break the triangle of fire is to get the wood out of the fire and hope that the damage will be minimal. Joseph fled leaving his outer coat behind. It will be the second time that his clothes will be used as false evidence, the first was a bloody coat of many colors that said he was dead, the second a servants coat that said he was a turn coat.
Joseph had a temptation resistant faith, the author of this passage says time and again, “the Lord was with Joseph” and “his master saw that the Lord was with him” and “the Lord blessed the Egyptians house’. A temptation resistant faith will evidence itself because God blesses that which glorifies Him. A temptation resistant faith doesn’t necessarily mean a trouble free life though. Potiphar’s wife openly accuses Joseph, first to the other men servants of the house even accusing her husband before them that it was his fault for bringing the Hebrew man here. Then she shows the garment as evidence to Potiphar and accuses him directly of bringing this whole mess to occur, kind of like Adam to God… “the woman whom You gave me…”. The temptation resistant faith of Joseph is what God uses to save his life for Potiphar surely would have put him to death if had not a suspicion that all was not as it seemed.
The wonder about a temptation resistant faith is that it gleams even in the darkness. In prison, for the next two years, it says, “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy and He gave him favor in the sight of the prison keeper.”
This takes us back to the main premise of this morning, ‘How we resist temptation can become the means for how God directs the next steps of our lives.’
Joseph had a temptation resistant faith, because you know Christ more than he ever could, much more so, have a temptation resistant faith and He will direct your next steps.