Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Ode to All Saints Day: The Difference Between Joseph and Stephen

Earlier today I heard another message preached on the life of Joseph, the son of Israel. As I was listening, I heard the usual discourse concerning his life. That he was given a dream by The LORD that saw him eventually reigning over those in his family. However, Joseph's dreams ultimately caused him problems with his brethren. Being upset over the fact that their younger brother was the favored child, Joseph's elders decided to do him harm. As the story goes on Joseph is sold into slavery, then imprisoned because of a deceitful woman. While in prison he interprets the dreams of two other inmates. In time, both interpretations come to pass and Joseph is eventually released from his dreaded hell-in-a-cell.

Joseph then proceeds to benefit the Pharaoh and the people of Egypt through his interpretation of Pharaoh's dreams. Joseph is soon exalted to a place where he literally fulfills his own dreams as his brothers who had meant him harm now bowed before him. God had ordained every moment of Joseph's life- from his position in birth, to Jacob's love of him, to his brothers' hatred for him, to his being sold into slavery, to his being placed before Pharaoh, to his place of ascension, to his rescuing of the household of Israel. Everything that happened was ordained of God. He went through trial and tribulation because God called him to it. He didn't want to be sold into slavery. He didn't want to be in prison. He went through simply because it really was "God's Will."

Now the story of Joseph is a story of beauty and truthful example of God's will in action within humanity (including the evils that befall us and the blessings He has in store for those who are called according to His purpose). Yet, rarely do you hear the importance of God's will when hearing the story of Joseph preached. Instead, what happens most of the time when the story of Joseph is preached ends up being about the "things." The "things" being Joseph was blessed with a coat, then Joseph was robbed of the coat and suffered, then Joseph was blessed greater than he was before. Sadly, all of your WoF churches preach this very gospel. For these so-called preachers and pastors the main point of the story of Joseph are the "things" he got in the end. Never do they focus on the fact that God used Joseph for the specific purpose of advancing His will in the world. God didn't use and save Joseph just to bless him, He used and saved him because He wanted the nation of Israel to be established (God's will, not Joseph's). You see in the end, the story of Joseph is not really even about Joseph. The story of Joseph is about GOD'S WILL!

Now what I would like to do is switch gears a bit. Let's take into account the story of Stephen (which rarely gets preached). In the book of Acts chapter 6, we find a man by the name of Stephen being chosen to be a servant because "he was full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." This man went "being full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people." This was Stephen. He was a holy, righteous man before the LORD and it showed because the signs and wonders followed. Not only did he help the people (fellow believers), but he "witnessed" Christ to the Jews from other nations. In fact, so strong was his witness that they couldn't even answer him. Being upset that they could not counter his stance, they had men to lie against him before the council. In what becomes one of the greatest "last stands" the Bible mentions, Stephen preaches the truth of God without wavering. He begins with the patriarch Abraham, carefully expounding the will of God through the "fathers" (including Joseph) up to Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Then after he had made a mockery of their faithlessness to God, they took up stones- and took his life. All because he would not back down from the true cause of Christ.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to preach the story of Joseph in many churches than it is to preach Stephen. Why? All because too many people want their ears tickled and too many preachers want their pockets lined in "green." It's much easier to talk about someone losing and then gaining a 100x's as much in the later part of their lives. It is easy to preach sermonettes of trials that can be overcome and being blessed because of one's supposed faithfulness. On the other hand, it is a lot more difficult to look someone in the face and tell them that they are going to suffer and in the end they will be no better off financially. For a preacher, a sermon like that means that people will not be encouraged to give unless God moves on them (and they can't trust God with their finances now can they?).

In the end, was it God's will to bless him (Stephen) to do the works that he did? Was it God's will that Joseph do the works that he did? The answer would be yes- to both. God rises up and pulls down, HE builds and destroys. If there is anything I want you to be sure of it is this, God does as HE pleases. If it pleased the FATHER to bruise the SON, why would we think that HE would not allow us to suffer even a little bit. Now I don't mean to make us a comparison to Christ, but I fully do not believe that every person that suffers is going to get "double fo' they trouble" (at least in this life)! Wake up and look out the door people, more Christians are suffering today for their faith than any time in history (and their have been millions who have suffered). All one needs to do is look at or to see the sufferings that are going on around the world. And sadly, the prosperity gospel would leave them feeling that what's happening in their lives is not GOD'S WILL! Dear children, the WORD says that we must suffer, that we must pick up our cross, and we must endure hardness like a good soldier. Joseph did and it was God's will to bless him. Stephen did as well, and it was God's will to take his life by stoning. Nevertheless, the one constant is GOD! So whatever you go through, do it to the glory of God and do not worry about getting a double portion. Learn to be content with material items and be ever hungry for the righteousness of GOD in CHRIST JESUS! For we have brought nothing into this world and it is sure that we can take nothing out.

No comments:

Christians Around the World!