Sunday, April 27, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 48: Joseph in Prison

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 16th March 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 40

Without trials and challenges, our lives would be very scary. We would never have victory in life if we never go through difficulties. God allows all kinds of trials to purify us.

We cannot say that we would do our responsibilities when the circumstances favor us. Joseph never complained to God but continued to do all his duties faithfully in the most difficult times. We should proactively influence our surrounding. That is how Joseph won over evil. That is how light shines in darkness. A prison becomes like heaven because of the influence of a righteous man. On the other hand, a palace can become like hell because of the presence of wicked people. We should not blame our circumstances but wherever we go we should actively influence our circumstances.

Joseph was favored by the prison supervisor and was once again be entrusted over the prison affairs. He interpreted the dream of the king’s cupbearer and baker. He was a prophet, i.e. God’s spokesperson who spoke the message of God. He was so God-fearing that he was faithful to interpret both the good and bad dreams. He asked to be remembered when the cupbearer was released, implying that he really felt the suffering of unjust treatment. But the cupbearer forgot about him once he was released.

But Joseph was patient. God enables His people to sing praises in the midst of darkness. No matter how much the suffering, it is temporary and it would pass some day. There is a purpose in sufferings that we would understand some day. In all circumstances, as Christians we need to learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

Humanity in Sin Part 47: A Model for Young Generation

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 9th March 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 39

In his youth, Joseph went through great trials and training. He was sold as a slave and seduced but he stood the test and emerged victorious. Many Christians live their lives passively. We have political, ethical, philosophical and scientific challenges. A person who faces challenges is courageous. He who overcomes is strong. However, accepting challenges alone is not enough as it is still passive. We simply respond to it. If there are no external challenges, what would Christians do? If we are effective only when there are challenges then we are not salt and light. Being salt and light is active, not passive. It means we must have dynamic influence and change the world – not passively, but actively. Only light will go into darkness. Darkness would not go into light.

People like Daniel and Joseph were not passively responding to challenges. They prepared themselves to have the courage to fight. More than anyone else, they could see the decadence of the world and challenged it. No matter what situation, Joseph continued to be a testimony. He did not ask for mercy when Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him. Other people might think he was just a slave but deep inside he had unshakable dignity. He could see the throne of God above all thrones, the laws of God above the laws of men. When a person could see the supremacy of God above all things, he is no longer bothered by other people’s opinions about him. This is the life attitude of saints in the Scripture.

This should be the spirit of Christianity. We can be persecuted but we should not compromise in obeying the will of God. A saint is not a person who is completely holy, but he has great sensitivity towards the smallest sin. The more retarded our spirituality is, the less sensitive ware towards even great sins. Joseph was sensitive spiritually. He considered it a great sin to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife. How many young people today indulge in pornography? So many people are beautiful externally but live like animals. The basis of human relationships is relationship with God. Joseph could see that wrong human relationship is a sin against God. His faith is linked with his action.

Joseph is different form David. Joseph understood this without making the mistake but David understood only when he had committed adultery and was rebuked by the prophet Nathan.

When Potiphar’s wife could not get what she wanted, she started to hate Joseph and he ended up in jail. So many disasters came upon Joseph. How would we respond if we go through Joseph’s difficulties? Would we get angry with God? Joseph never grumbled against God. When we go through difficulties, we must constrain our tongue and do not grumble against God. The just God often allow unjust things to happen.

In the days of our trials and training, God wants us to constrain our tongue and continue to live a holy life. But at this time Satan would encourage you to blaspheme against God. This is a test of our spirituality. For Job, in the same day all his 10 children died. God wants to see what words come out from our mouth when we go through difficulties. Job’s wife cursed God but Job said, “God gives and God takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We have true victory when we could constrain our tongue from speaking against God in our difficulties.

Joseph kept quiet and went to jail. He is a very precious young man. He is the model for all young people in all generation. God will raise a person like that.