By Pastor Anthony Scott
First Baptist Church North Tulsa
In the early 1990’s I was watching Major League Baseball’s summer classic, the All-Star game. This particular game has become one of baseball fans most cherished and humorous moments. On the mound was Randy Johnson who stands 6-8 inches tall and at the plate was pudgy John Kruk. Randy’s unorthodox delivery coupled with his height made his pitches nearly impossible to hit. Swing after swing John Kruk became increasingly frustrated at his inability to zone in on this incredible fastball being hurled at him by this gigantic man. Finally, he just gave up because the pitches being thrown were impossible to hit.
John R. Claypool noted once in a sermon, “What you do to life is just as important, perhaps even more important, than what life does to you. We humans are not free to choose what happens to us circumstantially, we are free, however, to choose how we will respond to these circumstances. I do have a voice in the kind of future that will emerge out of the present. Life is a perennial interaction of event and response, and what I choose to make of a given situation will have a direct bearing on the ultimate shape it assumes.”
The life of Joseph covers nearly the final third of the Book of Genesis. As you read the narrative of this patriarch’s life you find blow after fatal blow being tossed at Joseph but he always finds a creative response to the ambiguous packages delivered by life’s circumstances. This is what life does to people occasionally, our familiar foundations are taken away, a loved one passes, your job is downsized or eliminated, and suddenly your whole world is flipped inside out.
When things don’t work out perfectly, and we come to a place of desperation, we can conclude one of three things. We can believe that God created the heavens and the earth and now just sits back and watches us and therefore we are simply caught in a cause-and-effect sequence. We can believe that God is not really sovereign and that He has limited power or no control over our circumstances. Or, we can conclude that God is sovereign and nothing happens in our lives unless He allows or orchestrates it.
Joseph chose the latter response mainly because he had been given a particular faith in God out of his family heritage. His faith nurtured and contributed to his resilient capacity and enabled him “to answer back” creatively to life’s bitter hand. Joseph’s faith kept him from being overcome by events. Instead he overcame events and moved through them to live.
This perspective enabled Joseph to view all events from a wider perspective. He was able to creatively cope with life and courageously overcome circumstances due to his faith in a sovereign God. In every circumstance there was a “saving possibility,” some way that God has of bringing good out of evil and picking up the broken pieces so we can move forward. With God there is no such thing as a total tragedy; that is, a circumstance that is utterly devoid of any hopeful possibility. God can salvage good out of any wrecked situation.
Richard Baxter wrote, “Suffering so unbolts the door of the heart that the Word hath easier entrance.” Faith is tested in times of suffering. In the refining fires of life, we find what we are made of and who or what we are trusting. Robert Murray McCheyne summarized it this way: “A dark hour makes Jesus bright.”
In the latter part of the previous decade I was fixated on the NBA Finals and rooting for the Boston Celtics to overcome the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time in three years. On their way to the finals, the Celtics had been met with some devastating blows. One particular blow occurred during the Eastern Conference finals as they were pitted against the Orlando Magic. During one of the games Glenn “Big Baby” Davis was literally knocked unconscious by a Dwight Howard elbow. As he pulled himself up from the floor he began to stagger and stumble still not fully recuperated from the surprising blow. Floundering toward the sideline a referee noticed him and immediately moved in his direction. Just before Glenn Davis hit the floor the referee caught him and kept him from hitting the ground.
No matter what life does to you, no matter how awesome the blows seem or feel, God will be there to catch you when you fall. He will be your companioning presence in all that you experience.