Saturday, June 30, 2007

collective bargaining of the brotherly kind

It's been said that growth is nothing more than successful change, yet change requires challenging the status quo. It often calls for more than we are willing to give. The paradox is that for us to grow, we must be willing to experience change, yet change is what comes after every stage of growth. Are you thoroughly confused yet? Let me explain the concept a little clearer with the following story.

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel), and it is not because I am named after him. His story intrigues me no end because I am fairly confident that if we experienced the half of what he went through, we would probably require psychiatric therapy the rest of our lives. Consider being sold into slavery by your own brothers. This, after your confident announcement to them that God had shown you in a dream that one day they would bow down and serve you! As if that isn't enough trauma for any one man to deal with, Joseph finally ends up as a slave in Potiphar's palace (the captain of pharaohs personal guard). He rises through the ranks of "slavedom" becoming the favored and head "indoor" slave, only to catch the eye of Potiphar's wife. He steadfastly resists her advances and earns himself a tenure in an Egyptian jail for his troubles. At this point, most of us quit and give up on the dream. We blame God, our circumstances and everything around us. We become bitter and lose sight of the dreams that once burned so powerfully within us, energizing us towards our destiny.

After languishing in prison for two years, having been forgotten by the butler whose dream he interpreted (the butler is suddenly healed of "amnesia"), Joseph is summoned before Pharaoh to interpret a troubling dream that Pharaoh has had recurrently. As a result of his conference with Pharaoh he is named Prime Minister of Egypt, second in command only to Pharaoh, and charged with the responsibility of stocking away grain and food for the seven years of famine that he has predicted are imminent. This same famine, when it finally arrives, is what brings his brothers all the way from Canaan to Egypt seeking to buy food. Not recognizing Joseph, they bow in obeisance before him. Joseph reveals himself to them and they fall on their knees begging for their lives. The end of the story tells us a lot about Joseph. It identifies for us that his "explanatory style" (the way he chooses to interpret negative experiences in his life) is one of complete trust in the sovereignty of God even in the midst of the most horrific of circumstances.

Joseph declares to his brothers as they cower in terror, "Now don't be worried or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here ahead of you to save people's lives...God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you have some descendants left on earth and to keep you alive in an amazing way." Do you see it? The world would have perished in a famine that would have taken them by surprise if Joseph had not been positioned to interpret Pharaoh's dreams. His brothers had no idea that they were unwitting tools in the hand of God. The key however, lay with Joseph all along. If he had given up on God and His promises, he would probably have succumbed to the temptation of Potiphar's wife, reasoning that he might as well enjoy the favor and good graces of his master's wife since God had "abandoned" him. His promotion to Prime Minister and his destiny to save the world from famine was always God's sovereign plan. Its actualization however, was completely dependent on how much change (no matter how painful it was and how ill prepared he was) Joseph was willing to endure so that he could grow. His growth was what prepared him to function in his role as Prime Minister of a pagan nation that held the key to the worlds survival during seven years of famine.

This is why Joseph's story fascinates me. Whatever you're going through, you must be willing to understand that the changes that are taking place are essential to your growth so that you can step fully into God's calling and purpose for your life. Whether you are in the pit, the palace (as a slave) or in the prison, your season of ruling as ""Prime Minister" is imminent if you are willing to endure the changes, no matter how painful, and grow. So, my two-pronged question for you is this. What fears are causing you to resist the changes that need to take place in your life? What changes do you need to make to ensure that you don't short circuit God's plans for you?