Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: How to Get Out of the Pits
Deffinbaugh points out the correlation between our passage and the gospel, something that I had not thought of before:
These two dreams and their interpretations contain a striking parallel to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both the butler and the baker had “sinned” against their master and had rightfully incurred his wrath. Both awaited the condemnation they deserved. One was pardoned and granted a restoration of fellowship and function at the hand of his master. The other received the punishment that he was due and paid the penalty of death.
A lesson that we're trying to teach our children (and ourselves!) is that though we cannot always choose our circumstances, we can choose how we react in the midst of those circumstances.
Joseph is such a great example of this. It must not have been easy to keep his faith in God and his integrity in word, deep, and thought as time after time things went wrong for him, often just when things were finally "looking up". He's sold into slavery, and then just as he's worked his way up the servile ladder he's falsely accused and imprisoned. After having the opportunity to give the cupbearer the interpretation of his dream, he must have hoped for release, only to be disappointed for another two long years.
And yet all of these things happened in God's timing for God's purposes and even for Joseph's good, not to mention the future good of his family and the fulfilment of prophecy. And if Joseph hadn't reacted to his horrible circumstances in a godly manner he wouldn't have been in the position to hear the cupbearer's dream and ultimately wouldn't have risen to the position of second in command of the land of Egypt. God's purposes would have prevailed, of course, but Joseph either wouldn't have been used by God, or the path would've been even worse due to disobedience.
Joseph has utter faith that God is with him, even in his suffering. Though he couldn't see the future, and certainly never dreamed he would eventually rise to such a position of power, he trusted God. He trusted in His constant presence, he trusted in His sovereignty, he trusted in His goodness, he trusted in His faithfulness.
Joseph also had complete trust that God would keep the promise He had made to Joseph in his dreams as a teenager. He had dreamt that his brothers and parents would bow down to him, and God had confirmed those dreams, and so Joseph believed that somehow, some way, someday, God would deliver him. If Jacob had had that same faith, he wouldn't have believed in the false story of Joseph's death.
Joseph's godly character was also evidenced in his selfless service to others, instead of squandering his energy in self-pity. When do we use our suffering as an opportunity to serve instead of indulge in a pity party?
There is absolutely no place on earth where some kind of ministry to others is not possible, for even if we are in solitary confinement, we can intercede on behalf of others
Serving others benefits us because it keeps us from wallowing in self pity, and it keeps our eyes open to new opportunities God might have for us - just like it allowed Joseph to see the despair of the cupbearer and baker and ask them about it. In fact, Joseph's service was, ultimately, the means to his deliverance. Being faithful in little (in the prison) resulted in far greater responsibility in the palace.
God did promise that we could do all things through His strength - but those "all things" include things such as suffering and doing without.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need (Philippians 4:11-12).
Contentment, not comfort, is the key to successful living.
And that ability only comes in His strength.
If by having a “positive mental attitude” we mean having self-confidence, then we have completely missed the point. Our confidence and our enablement is to be found only in Him working through us. When we begin to take some of the credit for ourselves, God has to remind us Who is accomplishing things for His glory. That is why our greatest strength comes at the point of our greatest weakness, so that we must rely upon Him and not on ourselves:
And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God (II Corinthians 3:4-5).
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not of ourselves (II Corinthians 4:7).
May God enable us to face our difficulties as from God. May we be assured that He is with us in our trials and that He will remove us in His time and in His way. And may we determine, by God’s grace, to minister to others in our affliction.
Monday's scripture focus: Genesis 41
Sunday's passage: Nehemiah 11-12
Monday's passage: Nehemiah 13, Psalm 133, 2 Corinthians 5