How Long, Oh Lord?

by Phil Enlow

Transcript of message broadcast in two parts on MCM TV in August 2011

— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, good morning. Praise the Lord! Turn if you will, to Psalm 13—Psalm 13. I’m sure luck has nothing to do with the number of this psalm, one way or the other. But we know that the Scripture says that what “…things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (KJV).

And we have a prayer of David…this is something we referred to awhile back, that is very interesting in its contrast and it’s a contrast that anybody who’s served the Lord any length of time is familiar with in one way or another. And somehow we find it difficult to think that this is normal, the situation that he describes, the emotions he gives expression to here, that they are not normal, when, in fact, they are. And let’s just read it first of all.

David is praying at the beginning he says, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.” (NIV).

That sounds like a pretty sorry situation here. But, the fact is, there’s not a believer who hasn’t been in this place in one degree or another, where it seems like God is gone away, circumstances are such that there’s just darkness is all we can see, and we’re crying out to the Lord to change the situation to somehow show up and do something at least… “do something, if it’s wrong,” you know the expression we have. But nothing is happening, and the enemy is just bombarding our minds, and there just doesn’t seem to be any answers coming.

And it’s pretty evident that David, in his praying here…this is not something that just happened yesterday, is it? This is not some little, ‘oh, I woke up this morning and I’m having a bad day kind of thing,’ this is a situation that’s going on. I mean the phrase that he repeats over and over is, how long—how long is this situation gonna go on. Oh God, fix this, change this, do something, time is going on and it doesn’t seem like You care!

But it’s interesting when you get to the last part because you see a very different perspective and one that I certainly need to know in greater measure. And I believe everyone who serves God needs to get this side of it to counter-balance the other, because when we get in a place like David is expressing here, we need something—we need something to go on and he’s telling you, God’s not…I can’t sense God anywhere. I can’t see Him. I look at my circumstances and it just doesn’t look like He’s doing anything. You know, it’s like here I’m hanging out there.

But listen to what he says. “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.” So what an interesting contrast it is to understand that it is perfectly normal for believers to be in the place that David expresses here. This was a man after God’s own heart. This wasn’t somebody who’d done something wrong. I mean, isn’t that our inclination sometimes when we just can’t seem to get an answer and things just go on, and on, and on, and on and on. Oh God, I must have done something wrong. Oh God, if You’d just tell me what it is, I’ll fix it. You know, he’s talking about wrestling with his thoughts. Anybody ever wrestle with that one? Anybody ever ‘not’ wrestle with that one?

( laughter ).

Yeah, that’s…but you know, God is seeking to bring us to a place where we have in our lives, not just in theory, but in real, practical, day to day reality what it is that David expresses in the last part of this psalm, because it was real to David. David knew that even though his emotions were all geared in a very negative way, all he saw was darkness and all he saw was time stretching out and God not doing anything, he had something that was on the inside of him where he knew that that wasn’t the end of the story.

And I’ll tell you, that makes all the difference. This is not something that you can sit here and give a seminar and explain this to people. This is a knowledge that God longs to build. in the hearts of everyone who would serve Him, a faith—a confidence that reposes itself in the faithfulness and the constancy of God even when there is no tangible evidence whatsoever.

You know, we know Paul said in the New Testament, “…We walk by faith, not by sight.” (KJV). But I’m afraid the reality is that most of us walk by sight far more that we dare to admit. And we’ll believe God and believe God and believe God, and basically what we’re saying is, God okay, I’m gonna hang on a little longer, but I sure would like a sign!

( congregational response ).

Oh God, give me a sign. Well, see that’s not faith. God is wanting to take His people beyond that to where we do not hold God hostage to our expectations, our preferences, our ideas, our plans, our anything, but we are so committed to Him, our trust in Him is such that we have a confidence and an ability to not only just have confidence, but to rejoice even when there is nothing that anybody could see or feel that would cause us to be able to do that.

We serve a faithful God and David knew that. And he didn’t know it because his Sunday School teacher sat down and told him. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ll tell you, it’s got to get beyond that. It’s got to get to the point where we come to know our God. And like Abraham, it’s not like…God I’ve analyzed, like I said recently, I think…I’ve analyzed what you told me. I’ve run it by my lawyers. They’ve looked at all the fine print and I’m gonna go along with you on this one. You’ve explained it to me enough…okay now I’m gonna have faith in what You said.

No! There is a confidence because of Who it is that’s saying it. There is a personal relationship that has developed, and it’s developed, not because you were looking for God. I mean, you want to just look ahead into the next psalm. In verse 2, it says, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand.” Any! The Lord is looking to see if there’s anybody who understands, “…any who seek God.” And what does he say? “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” You find all this quoted in Romans chapter 3. Folks, we need God!

( congregational amens ).

We are not going to have anything simply by trying to impart religion to people and get them to sign on, and go by that, and believe it, and pretend to believe it. We need a God who reveals Himself to human hearts. And there is a God who is doing that and that’s His heart, is to reach out. The thing that held David was not, oh God, I’m afraid of You. Oh God, I know I better…you know, it’s like walking on eggs. I’d better be so careful that I don’t just step and just do just the wrong thing and then You’re gonna be mad at me and then everything’s gonna go to hell in a hand basket. He had a confidence that there was a God whose love was unfailing.

God, as we’ve said so many times, never has a bad day. I was starting to say, He doesn’t wake up in the morning and feel grumpy. Of course, He never goes to sleep! He’s on the job, 24/7. He knows everything about you. He knows everything about your circumstances. He has a plan. He has a purpose concerning you, and you, and you, and you, and me. David had come to an understanding of that.

There was a revelation of God that he had experienced first when…he just would spend time with the Lord. He’d heard about Him, but God put it in his heart as a shepherd boy, just to spend time singing and worshipping the Lord and just enjoying the beauties of what he had, but the Lord was talking to him, and giving him understanding. You know you can’t understand a thing unless God tells you—unless God reveals it. The only thing you can truly call knowledge is not what comes to you from human mind to human mind. It’s something that God shows you in your heart and you know it and nobody can take that away from you, because God has put it there.

God put something in David that was such a confidence in the Person in whom he trusted…his Shepherd. He knew something about being a shepherd, didn’t he? He knew it was a commitment to those sheep. He knew that everything was laid on the line, that a shepherd would give his life for the sheep. And he knew that there was a God he served. And so, he was able to say, “But I trust in your unfailing love.” It’s a love that does not change! It is not held hostage, or it is not to be measured by anything that I can see in my life, in my circumstances, none of that has any bearing on whether God’s love is for me or against me.

But man, we waver. If we don’t see things working out the way we think they ought to work out, man…I don’t know…maybe there isn’t even a God after all. You know, the devil will jump on people and he will tell you anything he thinks he can get you to believe. It’s like slinging so much mud on the wall, he’s gonna keep slinging and so some of it sticks if we let it.

But I’ll tell you, God is wanting to bring forth a people in this hour, because it is an hour of darkness. If you’ve got any eyes to see, you see the spirit that is engulfing our world. You see it on a personal level, as lives are being destroyed. You see it on a…you just see the spirit that’s steering us away from Christ, away from God, away from anything that has to do with Jesus Christ and who He is and what He’s about. This world is absolutely running into the ditch. And God is allowing the spirit of the age to take over, but He is also bringing, and He’s calling out a people.

Folks, we’re gonna have to have what David had, because we’re gonna be…probably a lot of folks are in this place right now. There are things going on in your life and you have no answers. And you’re crying out to God and there’s no answers that are coming. What do you do? As I said, we have so many ways of holding God hostage. We’ll get an idea as to how we think things out to go. Lord, I’m praying. Here’s the answer, Lord. If I don’t see this, then there’s something wrong with You.

Don’t we pray that way? I mean, isn’t that really what’s behind a lot of our thinking? We get so married to an outcome that we have devised and imagined, and if God doesn’t live up to our expectations, something is wrong. Well God’s just a little bit bigger than we are. He’s just a little bit wiser and His love does not fail because things don’t work out the way you think they ought to work out, or on the time frame that you and I think they ought to work out.

‘Cause that’s the issue here. Four times David cries out, how long! I made this point the last time we used the Scripture. God wasn’t offended that David prayed that way. This was an honest cry from the heart. This was not somebody who’s shaking his fist and saying, oh God, I’m mad at You. You’re not living up to my expectations, God. I’m disgusted with You. Maybe You don’t even exist. This is somebody who’s just, there’s an honest anguish in his heart.

You know, one of the things that testifies to me about the reality and the truth of God’s word is the way He portrays people honestly. Man, you go through the pages of this book and you will see people just like us, warts and all. If they did something ugly, there it is in black and white. God just lays it right out there, so that we have no excuse looking back and saying they were different than we are. We have no right to expect that we can be like them.

We have a God who is full of mercy, and full of grace! It was God’s anointing that fell upon this Scripture and caused it to be preserved for us. He preserved the anguish, the honest anguish of a soul. And even though he had this faith, there was the emotional turmoil that he was wrestling with. Oh God, how long is this gonna go on. God, it just looks like darkness is prevailing, Lord. I’m crying out. I don’t know what to do, but You’re not even talking to me. Lord, how long is this gonna go on?

I’ll tell you how long it’s gonna go on. It’ll go on according to God’s purpose. God has the perfect time, the perfect plan. And His outcomes are not, most of the time, they’re not anything we could have imagined. Look at the testimony of people throughout the Scriptures who came into horrendous situations, difficult situations, and yet God…and yet the ending testimony was, God was faithful! I didn’t give up on God. I wavered, I struggled, I went through all these doubts, and all this wavering, and the enemy was pounding my mind, but I never gave up on God. I knew who He was. I knew my life was in His hands. I knew His Word was true. And so I trusted in Him and He didn’t let me down. He never failed me.

Of course, you have to really take the long look for a lot of that, don’t you? Because you do find people that absolutely were killed for their faith. Does that mean God failed? Does that mean God wasn’t faithful? I’ll guarantee there’s people in this book, and there’s people…this is happening across the globe today…there are people who are serving God with all their hearts, they’re crying out to Him, they’re asking for deliverance, and they’re paying for their faith with their life. Does that mean God is not faithful? Does that mean God has failed? No! Because when God works in a heart, the miracle of the new birth that He performs in a life, puts something in here the devil cannot destroy!

( congregational amens ).

There is nothing he can do to destroy what God has purposed to do whether we go by way of lying in a hospital bed when our time comes, or whether somebody cuts our head off with a sword for not denying Jesus. We are gonna stand there one day in His presence, and we are gonna bow and give Him glory and give Him praise because we will know that we were there, not because of any worthiness in us, but because of His grace that He worked in our hearts. Oh folks, if there’s somebody, if God is ever tugging on your heart, you open your heart to Him. He is worthy to be served!

( congregational amens ).

God wants you and me to have this kind of an anchor in our souls, because that’s what we need.

( congregational amens ).

We need to know that there is God whose Word can be trusted. It’s rooted in His character. And that’s the imagery you get in Hebrews 6, the scripture we’ve used so often. God wants us to have a hope that’s not just a ‘hope so,’ I wish this were the case. This is a solid conviction that only God can put in your heart…

( congregational amens ).

…That His Word is real, that He is true, that we can put our lives and our destinies in His hands and be safe not matter what happens in this world… bad stuff will happen.

( congregational amens ).

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (KJV). Why do we not believe Him? In the world you will have trouble, but cheer up! “I have overcome the world.”

( congregational amens ).

Jesus has overcome death itself! What can the devil do to those who put their trust in Him? Praise God! But none of that eliminates the need for what we’re talking about this morning. We will go through times like this when it seems like the heavens are brass and God does not fix situations to suit us! And we’re gonna have to have that anchor where we just stand fast.

“My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD…” (NIV). There’s an exercise of David’s will in the face of everything that would be contrary. Nonetheless he says, I will. I’m making a conscious choice here. I now it doesn’t feel like it. I know nothing looks right, but I will praise Him. “I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”

Now see David does have a store of real experience with God. There were times when God did make Himself known to David in a way that David knew He was real. But somehow, God taught him, was teaching Him, as He teaches us, that we do not walk by those sensations and that constant reassurance…oh yeah, I guess I’m okay. He’s here, I feel Him, the icicles are running up and down my spine. I just feel this exhilaration all the time, so therefore, I know God is real.

No! God is real when He seems like He’s a million miles away. Nothing has changed with the one that puts their trust in Him. I mean, you can look at Scriptures that God has preserved for us in order that we might learn, in order that we might, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, have hope. Isn’t it interesting that Scripture says it’s through patience. There’s a sense in which we’re gonna have to do some waiting. We’re gonna have to do some standing. We’re gonna have to have a quality of spiritual endurance in the face of things, but that we through patience, and God gives us something.

It’s not like God gives us nothing. But when He does not give you a tangible sign or a feeling or any of those kinds of things, He’s giving you something. He’s giving you the promises of His Word. And I’ll tell you, if we have confidence in the One who gave us these promises, they will hold when nothing else will.

When you think of somebody like Joseph, talk about a prime example of somebody that got in the kind of situation that David’s talking about here. God had his hand on Joseph. It was evident. You remember the dreams that he had in which he saw his brothers and his father and his mother bowing down to him. And of course, that made everybody just thrilled.

( laughter ).

There were so happy that little Joseph was…they were gonna have to bow down to him! And oh I’ll tell you, there came a time when his brothers were so angry and so full of hatred and so full of bitterness, and you remember what happened. They took him and they were gonna kill him, if it hadn’t been for Reuben…I wonder who put that in Reuben’s heart?

( congregational response ).

You don’t think God’s in control? Here were a bunch of his brothers that actually, literally wanted to kill him. Reuben said, don’t do that. Let’s pretend he’s died, and let’s…anyway they wound up selling him to some merchants who were traveling to Egypt. And here is the man that God had given this word to, this promise, this hope, and everything…it looks like he’s going further and further and further from that promise. All of sudden he winds up as a slave. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s minding his own business and he’s trusting in God.

Now how many of us would have kept our integrity under those circumstances? How many of us would have given in to bitterness, to anger, to allowing something to get into our hearts and just fester? Man, if I ever get the chance, I’m gonna let those miserable, so-called brothers of mine have it. Man, I’m living for vengeance. That’s my new goal in life is to wreak vengeance on those who have done me wrong.

What an amazing testimony of integrity and God’s grace working in a life to see a man like Joseph be able to say, all right, this is where I’m at. Somehow he knew to continue to be a young man of integrity. All right I’m a slave, I’m gonna be the best slave I can be. I’m gonna be honorable. I’m gonna be trustworthy. I know everybody else is out for themselves. They’re gonna cheat. They’re gonna seek for self. I’m gonna be…but I serve my God, I know…I know He doesn’t stand for that kind of stuff. I know He’s a righteous God and I want to be like Him and I want to please Him, so I’m gonna do right.

And Potiphar, this important man in Egypt who’d bought him, recognized that whenever he put something into Joseph’s hands it was blessed. Potiphar, a heathen man in a foreign country, was reaping blessings because of recognizing that the hand of God was upon this young man. Do you think all of that would have happened if he had allowed that bitterness to take root in his heart?

Even though the scripture doesn’t record it, I’ll guarantee you—I will guarantee you that there were times when Joseph probably expressed himself and felt what David was feeling. This was not some short little cut two week adventure that he was on. This was something that took place over years. Now we can stand back and look at the story of Joseph’s life, and we can see the greater purpose of God and we can say, oh yeah, just hang on Joseph, it’s gonna be okay. We’re, you know, I know you’re feeling bad right now but we’re not a bit stressed. We know how this story comes out.

But Joseph didn’t know. He was a lot like us when we’re in the middle of something we don’t know. We don’t have the answers and it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t look good. It looks like everything is going in the wrong direction. God, my purpose is over there, why am I over here? Why am I going further in this direction? Oh God, how long? Lord, you promised. How long, O Lord, am I gonna have to put up with this?

But he didn’t waste…evidently, I mean, it’s so evident from the story and from the account of his life, he didn’t waste time and allow that to infect what he did and how he thought and how he behaved. He was an honorable young man who served God. Folks, many times that’s what we need most. If God is not giving you the answer you want right now, we need to learn how to stand and how to put our trust in God.

What does the prophet Isaiah say? “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light.” (KJV). What is he supposed to do? “…Trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Stay. Don’t give up the ship. Put your faith in Him. And the thing that we need to be most concerned about is don’t build your own fire. You don’t have light, don’t try to make light. We serve a God who is in charge and who knows better than we do what outcome He wants.

So, of course, here’s Joseph and, you know, I can see where, in a sense, he would say, well, you know things aren’t so bad. I’m with a master who respects me. Yes I’m owned, but I’m respected. I have responsibilities. He’s put his entire household under my care because God is blessing me. Lord, this is good, Lord. I’m thanking You.

So the devil says, well, I’d better do something about this. We can’t have this now. So all of a sudden he gets Potiphar’s wife to acquire a roving eye. You know Potiphar was a busy guy. He probably didn’t pay as much attention to his wife as he should’ve. And she got to looking at him, a handsome young man, and she just wanted him. She tried her best to seduce him and talk him into carrying on an affair with her. He wouldn’t do it.

And you remember the story how one day they were alone in the house and she grabbed his cloak in an attempt to seduce him. He did the honorable thing, he got out of his coat and he ran out and so she screamed rape. So now, on top of everything else, he’s done everything right. He doesn’t deserve any of this. He’s done it right. What is his reward? He’s falsely accused and he’s thrown into prison!

And the Psalms seem to indicate that it wasn’t a fun place to be. There were shackles of iron. It hurt. I’m sure they weren’t kind to people who were in that kind of circumstance, and there he was.

What would you have done? What would I have done? Would you start to entertain doubts and start to say, oh God, I don’t know about this? Here I’ve put my trust in You and it looks like it’s going from bad to worse. God, I don’t know whether this is the right thing to be doing. Am I a fool?

Nobody has every thought that, have you? But this is the reality, folks. We are human beings and we’re gonna have to have the kind of faith that can stand up to all of this kind of thing and only God can give it, and only if we’re willing to open our hearts to Him and to turn from our own way. As I said, one of the biggest things that hinders us is that we imagine outcomes. We get our attention focused on that.

Do you remember Naaman? Naaman came…Naaman hurt and had leprosy, was a Syrian. And he had a little servant girl who was Jewish. She must have been captured in a battle and she was serving him. She said, hey, there is a prophet in Israel, go and he’ll pray for you. So he goes down there all big, important man, loaded down with gifts and soldiers. I mean this is an important guy. And he goes, and the prophet doesn’t even come to the door. Not only that, the message that he says is go dip in the Jordan River seven times and you’ll be cleansed.

So what was his reaction to that? He was mad. Who does that guy think he is? Doesn’t he know how important I am? Aren’t the rivers back home are a lot better than that muddy old Jordan. What did…he was just angry. We’ve got a lot of that in us when things don’t go our way according to our expectations.

But, God wanted to make Himself know to that man in a very special way. He had a servant who said, My Lord, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? How much more, just go down and dip and be clean? Well, the Lord used that simple exhortation from his servant. He said, okay. And so he did and he was clean.

But how much like Naaman are we sometimes when we bring our plans, our desires, our expectations and expect God to be our servant! And if he doesn’t do it our way, well bless God, you’re wrong or something’s wrong. Oh, my God. God is looking for a people who will walk humbly with Him and say, God I trust You. What did Job say? “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Do you think there’s a reason God put that in there?

( congregational response ).

Job come out pretty good, didn’t he? Do you think there’s anybody who’s ever really, really, really put their trust in God who’s gonna come to the end and say, boy, what an idiot I was? What a fool! I’ve wasted all my life, all this stuff I could have done in the world, all of it is gone and I’ve wasted my life. I’ve put my trust in something that’s just of no value whatsoever.

Oh, I’ll tell you what, there is nothing”there is nothing outside of coming to know Him and walking in His will. May God bring us His way, His time. Boy, I’m saying this to myself as well. We are all cut from the same cloth, folks. We are made of the same stuff. We need God to work in our hearts and to give us what real faith is about. Praise God!

So anyway, you know how the account went on. Joseph was there in the prison and this wasn’t just a two week vacation. This was years of sitting there. I mean, can you imagine? We can’t get through a week sometimes. If something we don’t like happens, oh God, how long. It’s been a whole week, Lord! Let alone when it goes on and on and on and on and nothing changes.

But the amazing thing is once again Joseph didn’t let it get him bitter. I know there was anguish. You know he was. He was like us, but somehow he had enough of a knowledge of God. He was convinced that righteousness was worth it even in the darkest dungeon of Egypt. And so he continued to do the right thing and he was noticed by the people who were running the prison and it wasn’t long before he became a trustee. He was somebody who helped the prison, helped run the prison, keeping it orderly, take care of people. He was somebody with responsibility.

Of course, he did try to help himself, didn’t he? Do you remember when the butler and the baker were thrown in…they fell out of favor with Pharaoh and they got thrown in there. All of a sudden they had dreams. I haven’t looked this up recently, but it seemed like the baker had three loaves or something in a basket and the birds came and ate it. Whatever it was, it was not a good message for the baker and it was a really good message for the butler. He was gonna be restored and the other guy was gonna have his head…you know, off with his head.

But Joseph wasn’t content just to give them God’s message, he did just like we would have done. He said, put in a good word when you get up there. This isn’t right. I’m here, I’ve been unjustly accused. I’ve got to do something here. He tried that and as soon as the butler got back there, he forgot all about it.

Now you remember how much time went by after that? It wasn’t two days later that he said, oh I forgot. It was two years. You think about two years under those circumstances. This is now many, many years that have gone by. He has ample time to think back about the awful things that his brothers did to him. Ample time to cry out Lord, how long is this gonna go on. Oh, God, I’m trying to do what’s right. I’ve been faithful, Lord. You know that everything that’s happened to me has not been because there was some fault in me, Lord. I was trying to do what’s right and look at my circumstances. Oh, God, how long are you gonna not hear my prayer?

God heard his prayer the first time, but there was something that God was working in him. This man was gonna sit on a throne. Can you imagine if a teenager had just suddenly bopped up on the throne and said, okay, I’m in charge here, guys…what kind of a ruler he would have been? That would have been a mess, but God was building a faithfulness that can only be forged in the fires of trials.

What does Peter say? “…Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” He said, your faith, well I’m gonna have to read it. I thought I could quote it there for a second. “These have come…”(NIV). This is 1st Peter chapter 1. “These have come…” Why? Why have they come? Why have the trials come? Why can’t we just float through life and have a push-button faith so that whatever we need is just right there, right now? God’s just a divine vending machine, and we are so wise and so smart that we can just go to God and push the right button and everything…the blessing will plop out, and we’ll take it, and we’ll go on our way and everything will be cool.

“These have come so that your faith…” What’s God focused on? Our comfort? No, He’s focused on faith. There is a quality in our spirits that is so married to Him, so committed, so full of hope and confidence in Him, He says, that is worth more than anything you can put a value upon.

But I’ll tell you, you and I put great value on our reputation. We put great value on our possessions. We put great value on the esteem of men. We put so many earthly things and God is seeking to cut us loose. Every one of those things is something of this world that is like a chain that holds us here. God is cutting those chains in our lives so that we can be free to serve Him.

“These have come so that your faith…” your faith, your faith, your faith. And it says it’s “…of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire”may be proved genuine.” God is going to put His people to the test and He doesn’t put us in the fire to destroy us but to refine our faith and to prove that it’s real, to prove that it’s something that He put there.

You and I don’t have this. We weren’t born with it. If you don’t get it from God, you don’t have it. That’s why, if God ever deals with your heart, you need to open your heart to Him. Let Him shine the light on whatever is going on, whatever you need to know about in your life, let Him shine the light, because He’s a God of mercy. He knows everything about you, the good, the bad, and the ugly, but He loves you and He’s got the answer to everything that’s wrong. Open your heart to Him.

Believers, God is looking to prove that His faith is “genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Can you imagine that day? Think about Joseph when he was in the middle of the trial, maybe right before it all got resolved, and the devil was pounding all this bad stuff in his head, stuff worse than anything you and I have ever had to deal with. And you contrast that with what it will be like on that day.

Can you imagine how we will look at Joseph, and the Lord will hold him up and there’ll be glory shining upon him and the Lord will say, look at this man who was faithful to me. I want you to know that I hold him in high esteem and heaven holds him in high esteem because he believed Me when nobody else was believing Me.

And Joseph is gonna fall on his face and bow before Him and give Him the glory and the praise. Man, is there anything worth more than that? Do you not believe that God will…I don’t know how to put this. I don’t want…because ultimately He’s gonna get the glory. But do you not think He’s going to be honored, and willing to honor those who have honored Him? Of course He is. We will have such an inheritance from Him in glory that there’s no way to compare it. And it doesn’t mean it’s all over there, we can enjoy Him here. Thank God He was here this morning, wasn’t He? He is here.

( congregational response ).

Praise God! We can rejoice in Him. You may be here this morning and having to rejoice through tears, I don’t know, but you can still rejoice because He hasn’t changed. And He loves you even when you’re experiencing that. Sometimes the ones who are in the hardest place are the ones God is working in the most. We take it just the opposite. Praise God!

But, here’s Joseph. But you know, of course, what happened when all of a sudden dreams come back into the picture and Pharaoh had a dream, a couple of dreams, as a matter of fact. And he didn’t have a clue. He knew, something caused him to know that they meant something—that they were important, and he called everybody in and they couldn’t tell him what it was about.

Of course, the butler is serving him his wine and hanging about and doing his job and oh, my goodness, I remember. This day I remember there’s a guy down in the prison, he can tell you. Because I and the baker, we were down there and we had dreams, and he told us what was gonna happen, and it did. Pharaoh, you need to get the guy.

So Joseph got up that morning and of course it was just another morning, another day to him. Okay, here we are, another day in jail, a place I don’t belong. All of a sudden the officials showed up and they get him out of there. They give him a bath which he probably needed, put good clothes on him, and got him all ready to go. And suddenly he goes all the way from the prison of Egypt standing before Pharaoh.

And God gives him the ability to understand what Pharaoh’s dream was about and God was merciful to a heathen nation for the sake of His people. You think about it. There were seven years of plenty coming but God knew that behind that, seven years of terrible famine. And God took this faithful young man and put him number two in the greatest nation of his day.

I’ll tell you, we serve a God Who can do what He wants. He’s not bound by our schedule. He’s not bound by what we think is important. He has His own plan. The wisest thing that you and I can do is to just throw ourselves upon Him and say, Lord, not my will, Lord, but Yours be done. You are the One Who is in charge. There’s nothing that can stay Your hand, there’s nothing on earth. You can do whatever You need to do in this world.

And if my lot in life is to glorify You and take a bullet, praise God. Let somebody look and see Christ in that and believe and put their faith in Him. Let the one who pulls the trigger see what it means to put their faith in Jesus. God can take any circumstance and get glory out of it and in the end we will stand with Him in light. Or He can make you rich and able to give to the kingdom, I don’t know. God can do whatever suits His purpose.

And so here’s Joseph and, of course, you remember how the story played out. There was indeed great plenty, and man, they just stored up the barns until there were no more barns. They had to build them and build them and build them and storehouses of food. They just had plenty, but all of a sudden there was nothing! And there was nothing up in Palestine where his family was. And it wasn’t long before they heard, hey, there’s food in Egypt. And you know how they went on several occasions.

Of course, Joseph recognized his brothers. How many of us would have taken the opportunity. Look what God did. They did me wrong and God has put them in my hands. He wants me to crush them. This is my chance. I can take care of business now. God’s put me in a place where I can straighten…I can take care of business. I can fix this.

He didn’t have that spirit, did he? There was a spirit of compassion and ultimately, when he revealed himself to his brothers, they were terrified and he was weeping for joy. He said, don’t be afraid. Get everybody and come to Egypt. There’s going to be several more years of famine. I’ll take care of you here.

You know, his brothers were still kind of a little unsure about all of this. I mean, they didn’t have much choice. But you can see it when Jacob—when Israel died, what happened? His brothers came to him and said, our father talked to us and told us to tell you not to take vengeance on us. We know you’ve just been…what they’re saying is, we know that you’ve just been waiting because you didn’t want to do this when Jacob was still around. But now, we’re just afraid now.

You remember what Joseph said? That’s something that we need to understand in our lives. He says, you meant it for evil. I mean he was honest. You weren’t trying to do me good. You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. We serve a God who can take any circumstance and turn it around for something that is good. And I want to have that kind of a spirit that doesn’t hold grudges, doesn’t hold bitterness, doesn’t blame. I’ll tell you, if we understand that God’s in charge, and we blame and hold grudges, who are we really blaming?

( congregational response ).

We’re blaming God. You might as well look in the mirror and say, God I’m blaming You, or look up or whatever. God, I’m mad at You, You did me wrong. You let that happen. It was wrong. But he saw something in the purpose in the love of God, the same thing that David saw, the unfailing love of God.

God, You’ve never failed me. When I was in that darkest place I didn’t have the answers, Lord. My heart was crying how long, oh Lord, how long is this gonna go on. I know he prayed that. I know there were times that he went to bed and he wept and he cried and the devil was pounding his brain with the injustice of it all. But yet his heart was willing to say, but Lord, I trust you. Lord, I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I’m want to keep doing what’s right.

May God build that quality of spirit in us! There’s no other way it happens other than our having to be refined in the fire. God give us grace, and He will. But there’s a people who are willing to walk with Him and we don’t look like much now. But do you have any idea the glory that God has prepared for His people? Is that just some sort of fairy tale that you just sort of signed on to or is that real? That’s God promise.

( congregational amens ).

I believe His promise. You know, if we live to be 100, well, for me that’s not much longer, but if we live to be 100, that’s still not a long time. Our life on earth is short. The life beyond is forever and we have the opportunity to serve Him here in the face of the darkness of this world.

I’ll tell you, God is gonna have a people. I want to be part of those people. I want to understand. I want to be able to say along with Joseph, you meant it for evil but God meant it for good. My God is bigger than your evil and He’s gonna get His job done.

Folks, we have the opportunity to be a light in this world. We can only be a light if we’ll let self die in the face of the circumstances of life and put our trust in Him and give Him the glory. There’s gonna be a light that will shine. Somebody will see it. God’s not through calling His people. As long as we’re here, somebody is gonna see the light.

I don’t know what God’s plan is. I don’t know what His timetable is. Sometimes I’m tempted like everybody else to say, oh Lord, how long do we have to put up with this world. Maybe you’re young and you don’t see it that way, but you wait a while. This world is gonna become a miserable, weary place that you just don’t want to live here that much longer. I mean I want to be here as long as the Lord wants, but my home is not here. God’s got something better and I believe in Him and I put my trust in Him today.

And that’s His call to us. If you’re in the place that David is at, and there’s something in you that’s crying out, “How long, O Lord…How long will You hide Your face…How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” That’s the cry of your heart. You do what David did. You express your faith in Him. You do it against what you feel. You praise Him. You look to Him and you say, God, my times are in Your hands, not mine. Lord, I may think I know how this is gonna work out, but I don’t and I want Your will, not mine.

( congregational amens ).

I’ll tell you, we serve a God who is faithful throughout the pages of this book and throughout the pages of all history ever since. We have every reason to look back and to take comfort and hope and for that comfort to feed the quality of endurance that God is building in every one of us. He is faithful, folks. Praise God!

( congregational amens ).

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