Saturday, March 4, 2017

Prison or Preparation?

Are you going through an especially trying time right now?  To make matters worse, do you feel that you actually didn’t cause what’s going on but have been wronged or treated unfairly? If this sounds like you, take heart. We are going to look at one episode from the life of Joseph that should give you cause for hope and endurance.

Genesis 39:20-23
Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

Things to think about:
·       Joseph got fired from his job. Compounding this unfortunate situation was the fact that he didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, he did everything right and still got sacked!
o   Have you ever lost your job through no fault of your own?
o   Have you ever been falsely accused of something at work?
·      Unemployment can sometimes feel like a kind of prison. You are isolated from people who are “on the outside”, freely pursing their careers, while you toil in a kind of solitary confinement.
o   Can you identify with this feeling? Do you know of someone who is in this mindset?
o   How can we have a “prison ministry” to encourage those serving a sentence of unemployment?
·      What are other kinds of prisons we can find ourselves in?
o   Bitterness, loneliness, depression, illness? Do any of these or something else resonate with you?
·      Joseph made the most of his time while he was out of work. His good attitude and diligence in his duties caught the warden’s eye and created an opportunity for him. It also created an environment where God could (and did) bless him.
o   He could have sulked and had a pity party but instead he allowed God to use him while in transition.
o   In Genesis 40:6-7 we see that Joseph built relationships with the people whom God had put in his circle of influence. His “networking” later proved to be vital to his next career move. (Although not without a two year delay)
o   How can volunteering be a good use of time for someone who is in between jobs or otherwise struggling?
o   Why is building relationships critical when we are going through difficult periods?
·      Jeremiah 29:11  -  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
o   Like Joseph, the Israelites were in exile (a kind of prison)
o   For those He calls His own (which includes YOU), God is at work, preparing you for what He has in in mind for your life and your purpose in His service.
o   One of the reasons we become Christians is because we have conceded that we’re not very good at directing the course of our lives.  With that being the case, trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your paths straight.
·      Joseph went on to become the Prime Minister of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh as most powerful man in the world.
o   The time he spent in prison prepared him spiritually, relationally, and practically for his future role.
§  God could have promoted him sooner but didn’t.  Why do you think that might be?
o   Describe how God has used a prison term for you as the preparation period for His future work in you and for you.
·      How does today’s study cause you to rethink your current circumstances?
o   Why is preparation so vital to His plans for us?
·      How might you approach your next encounter with someone “in prison” differently based on Joseph’s example?

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