Gifts, Humility, Forgiveness, and Heroism

Last week I prepared a sermon about Joseph (OT) and I have always been intrigued about this man. Was he perfect? No he wasn’t. However, most of the characters in the Old Testament had some flaw. With certainty though, Joseph was GIFTED, God had given him something, but he didn’t exactly know how to use the gifting at first.

God spoke to Joseph through his dreams, and probably understanding full and well what it meant, sought to blab it to his brothers. This dream essentially rubbed it in his brothers face that they would bow down to him, and he would rule over them. He was the arrogant kid that essentially rubbed in the face of his brothers that he knew he was better than them. His brothers were already upset with him because they saw him as a tattle tale, and as daddy’s favorite, which was thrown into their face every time they looked at his coat. So they looked at their arrogant brother and sought to break him, so they eventually sold him, and removed him from their sight. Joseph’s arrogance had betrayed him, and he lost all that he had which fed his pride.

Humbled, Joseph went around and was a good servant. He did all that he could to be successful, giving his work into the hands of God, and God blessed him. Not that this went straight to his head, but the success caused Joseph to let his guard down, and he fell into the trap set by his master’s wife. Feelings of invincibility probably caused him to enter into a circumstance that ultimately got him thrown into prison. Lesser arrogance than what he threw into the face of his brothers, but still a lack of humility.

God stayed with him, and continued to offer him gifts and blessings, even in the outward appearance of no gifts, no reason for pride, as he was locked up. God had a plan for his life, one that he probably had no clue, and his thoughts were far from those dreams that he had told his brothers, another life ago.

So Joseph used the gift God had given him even while in prison. This time he interpreted two men’s dreams, but this time the reward was not instant, for as soon as the man that benefitted from Joseph’s interpretation, did not help Joseph. This caused a deep humility to dwell within Joseph, so much so that he would remember that God is the source, and Joseph is merely the vessel.

Thus the time came when Pharaoh needed some dreams interpreted. Here Joseph supplied the information that allowed Egypt to be saved from the effects of a Great Famine. For this act Joseph, was rewarded with great power and prestige. At this point his brothers enter the scene again because the famine reached Canaan and his family. They came looking for assistance from Egypt. Instead of treating them with the wrath they probably deserved, Joseph helps them out, and actually saves his whole family, because through the power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph offers forgiveness and salvation to those who started his downward spiral.

He even wanted to offer them the assurance that they were forgiven because he knew that God blessed him throughout the midst of his humbling, by telling them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” His brothers needed to be humbled, but Joseph did this through the love of God, not the wrath.

Lacking Perfection


Today, when I went to pick up the results of my four ordination exams, I found out that I passed two of them, and did not pass two of them (I thought this was a funny and gentle way of saying that I failed). My first instinct was disappointment, because I was going to have to take two of them again. However, my biggest disappointment was that I will never be able to say that I passed them all on my first try, I will never have a perfect record.

A sad thing about this experience is that I was so disappointed that I was not able to truly accept a friend’s congratulatory remarks. While I should not gloss over the fact that I should strive for perfection, I also need to be able to appreciate the good news that I passed two of the exams. It really is just a matter of perspective. If I were a hitter in baseball I would be the greatest of all time if I hit 0.500.

However, I looked at it from the perspective of a basketball player shooting free throws. 50% is Shaq territory; awful! This is why I focused upon the tests that I didn’t pass. However, there is a good lesson that can come out of this. I need to humble myself, and prepare differently for the exams that I didn’t pass. When Shaquile O’Neal, a horrendous free throw shooter, played for the Lakers he was encouraged to work on his free throws, and he reached out to one of the best free throw shooters in the history of the NBA, Rick Barry, to help him with his free throws.

As seen below, Rick Barry had an unorthodox way of shooting free throws. Shaq had set up a meeting with Rick Barry to possibly changing the way he shot free throws to the between the legs version of the free throw shot. Unfortunately, this meeting got cancelled, because, as rumor has it, Shaq’s publicist told him this would hurt his image, and thus they idea was jettisoned.

However, I cannot worry about my image in failing, and studying extra hard for the next time around, but rather I must humble myself to working on and continuing to drive into my head the things that I may think I have fully understood. I can’t be above doing the things that will help me succeed in the future. Which, to some extent is a microcosm of our relationship with God. Sometimes it takes doing the “weird” or “different” thing to really explode with success in ministry, as it is most of our greatest successes come from the lessons learned during our greatest failures.

Not that this is my greatest failure, but I must understand that there is a lesson here to learn. I must not allow the failure to rule me, but I must yield to the process and to the power of the Holy Spirit constantly at work in our communities, places of employment, and homes. My focus must not stray from God! I think this is a major struggle many of us have when we get disappointing news.

Also while I am not currently perfect, I strive after holiness, and the power of the Holy Spirit working within, and thus am continually in the process of being sanctified. Thanks be to God!