The weekend arrived so much faster than I thought it would, and before I knew it, Maura and Sarah showed up at my house to pick me up for the women's conference! Even though it was nearby, Maura booked a hotel room for the three of us. After a late lunch of blackened fish tacos, we headed to the hotel to drop out things off and get a quick workout in at the hotel gym. We had just enough time to get changed and head over to Reston Bible Church for the Friday evening portion of "Cultivate". Cultivate is Kelly Minter's ministry. She was the keynote speaker, and her teaching was phenomenal.
To be honest, I went into the conference holding onto some resentment (and dare I say bitterness?) that God had not orchestrated certain aspects of my life in the specific way that I wanted. That's hard to break through, and I did not expect much of a change of heart throughout the weekend. I underestimated God. The amazing thing is that the entire first night of the conference, Kelly spoke on suffering: how to suffer well, and how to trust God through it all. I had expected a much more simplistic theme for the evening, and two hours in, the Holy Spirit had truly convicted my heart. By the end of the evening I was eagerly anticipating what the next day held.
Kelly is pretty hilarious, first of all. She decided that, to get through so much of Joseph's story in the short amount of time we had, we needed a flannelgraph. Just like what we had in Sunday school. Except she didn't have one. But – and who knew these existed – she found a digital flannelgraph! According to Kelly, the tagline reads: "not your grandma's flannelgraph." She put them up on the screen so we could get a "historically accurate" picture of what these scenes in Joseph's life actually looked like. ;)
Part 1: How to Suffer Well – Genesis 37-40
*Certain blessings can only come in the midst of suffering*
Joseph was trafficked twice and it looks like God had lost control of the situation. But twice, the Bible says, “But the Lord was with Joseph”. Blessings and suffering can go hand-in-hand. We tend to judge God’s closeness to us based on our circumstances, but this isn’t how trials work.
1. Don’t let suffering lead to sinning
1 Corinthians 10:13 – He will provide a way out of temptation.
When replying to Potiphar’s wife, Joseph didn’t object based on personal consequences, nor give into temptation. No, he said, “How can I sin against God?” But even after Joseph made the right decision, he was punished for doing the right thing. Can we trust our just God in an unjust world?
2. Suffering makes us fit for the dreams God has for us
Psalm 105:17-19 – God was using this to test Joseph. The test is: when you get through this, you will be gold.
Our human nature thinks: But I don’t want my success to be in a dungeon! However, this linear thinking is not how God thinks. His plans are bigger than ours, and they affect more than just us.
3. Whether in palace or prison, it’s God’s Presence that changes everything
39:21: “But the Lord was with Joseph.”
At some point in deep suffering, it gets lonely. Other people can’t be there the way you might need them to. But you are never alone: the Lord is always there. Relish this. Do whatever you have to do to remove things that distract from his presence.
4. Don’t miss the displays of God’s kindness in the midst of your trial
39:21 – “The Lord extended his kindness to him.”
Get rid of your bitterness that God’s kindness didn’t get you out of your suffering. Have eyes to see God’s kindness in the middle of your pain
5. Some of your best ministry will happen in your suffering
Joseph didn’t stop his ministry because he’s suffering. Joseph acted like a priest – tell me your problem. I can’t fix it but I know the God who can! He saw the cupbearer and the baker in prison, distraught because of their dreams. He reached out to them in the midst of his own pain and shared the love and knowledge of God.
6. People who fail us can’t prevent God’s plan for us
Joseph’s humanity shows when he said to the cupbearer – “When all goes well for you, remember that I was with you. Please show kindness to me by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this prison. For I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should put me in the dungeon.” But the cupbearer forgot and Joseph remained in the prison two more years.
The cupbearer’s forgetfulness didn’t throw off God’s plans for Joseph.
Part 2: How to Prosper Well – Genesis 41-43
*Suffering is long but deliverance is often quick*
It was thirteen years between being trafficked at the age of seventeen and his deliverance out of prison. Yet once Joseph was summoned to the palace, his whole live changed.
He had no idea that while he was interpreting dreams for other prisoners, Pharaoh had dreams at the palace. Interesting: Pharaoh summoned Joseph to interpret dreams because he was faithful to interpret dreams in the dungeon.
1. During the good years, leverage your gift of influence
The power of influence is greater than the power of authority.
“No one can help”: no one could help Pharaoh, just like no one could help the leper at the pool of Bethesda. This is more linear thinking. It may not be humanly possible, but with God all things are possible. And while Joseph had an amazing gift of interpreting dreams, we have something even better: our Helper, the Holy Spirit, indwelling us. So while we might not be able to fix a problem bigger than us, we know the one who can fix it!
You won’t serve God more in the palace (good times) than you’re willing to serve him in the prison (bad times).
2. During the good years, give God the glory
Genesis 41:51-52 – “God has done it!” God made Joseph fruitful in the land of his affliction.
Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, but instead of taking credit, Joseph said “I am not able to. It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Because of all of this, Joseph was exalted as #2 in the land.
Deuteronomy 8:12-14 – Be careful that you don’t forget the God who brought you out of suffering.
3. During the good years, pursue those who are in the hard years
Joseph didn’t prosper for his own sake – because of his hard work during his service to Pharaoh, all the others had grain to eat. It is partially about you (because God is a personal God), but it isn’t all about you.
During the good years Joseph was working! Working for the people around him. What are you doing with the good years?
4. During the good years, don’t forget what God promises to redeem
Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh, meaning “God has made me forget all my hardship in my father’s house.” But did he forget the dreams God gave him of his brothers bowing down to him? And would he see his father again? In Genesis 42:26 these dreams were fulfilled.
No one on earth can shatter a dream whose source is in God.
5. During the good years, store up treasure in heaven
Matthew 6:19-21 – Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Part 3: How to Love Well – Genesis 43-45
*You are called to love and forgive in ways that can only come from God*
1. Stay tender and moveable
Even after so long, Joseph was “overcome with emotion” at seeing his family. In Hebrew it means his compassion grew hot. This is the power of the gospel: Joseph was still so tender after all the pain, disappointment, confusion and heartache.
Genesis 45:5 – “God sent me ahead of you to preserve life.” Joseph was sent to Egypt by his brothers, but more so for them. God is sovereign over all situations.
2. Bless those you think you have the right to punish
Joseph really wanted to see his father but he relinquished the outcome to God. At first he held back Simeon and then used his goblet as collateral to guarantee seeing them again. But the third time he sent all of them back to Canaan. He trusted God to bring his father to Egypt.
After Judah begged to take Benjamin’s place as Joseph’s prisoner (re: goblet), Joseph told them who he was. They were terrified he would punish them but instead, Joseph told them to “come near”.
Similarly: after Jesus had been despised, rejected, and sent to the cross, he said “Come near”. This was very costly to him and yet free to us.
3. Be a ruler who rescues
Genesis 45:7 – God sent me ahead…to establish you and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
4. Forgive in heart and deed
He comforted his brothers and said he’d take care of them and their children. He probably forgave over and over through the entire fifteen years he was in Egypt wanting to see his father. “You planned it for evil; God planned it for good.” Joseph lived on the right side of that semicolon.
5. Embrace God’s perspective
God has bigger plans for your life than you do. He is always there, and he is always in control.
Listen to this music we were blessed with!
Friday evening the group of women that came from Maura's church in SoMD hung out in our hotel suite after the conference ended at 9pm. I thought I'd be dragging since I'm usually in bed (or wish I was in bed) by that time, but at 11:30 we were still going strong! Maura and Sarah brought snacks and ice breaker games, and I brought the card game "Marrying Mr. Darcy". It was a lot of fun, and we weren't in bed until after midnight. It made getting up the next morning for Day 2 of the conference a little hard, but that's what coffee is for. :)
Here is a quick video of our conference weekend:
Music: Kelly Minter
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