This past week, my oldest son who is 13 years old, found himself in a heap of trouble at school when the principal learned of his “questionable” gesture on the basketball court. My son was having fun, joking and jesting with his friends on the court, but he went a bit too far in his pursuit of gaining some laughs. Remy was issued a full days suspension from school for his “hilarious” act. The punishment didn’t seem to quite fit the crime. His punishment seemed harsh, but I decided that this would be a good opportunity to teach my son some good life lessons. We talked about taking responsibility, respecting authority, having a humble attitude, life not being fair, injustice in the world, and learning to not compromise certain behaviors, gestures, or words just for laughs.
God has been teaching me lately about the importance of my response, so I chose to respond to what my wife and I thought was a harsh punishment as an opportunity to teach and to learn. I cannot say that I always choose to respond with such positivity, but it proved to be a healthy response that turned what could have become a very bitter situation into a sweet one. I chose to let my initial feelings and emotions take the back seat and I decided to wait for God to speak wisdom into this situation. At first, it was tempting to want to try to defend my son’s intentions and appeal to the principal for a lighter punishment. We believed that Remy did not deserve such a harsh punishment, but at this point it didn’t really matter how we felt, it mattered how we would respond.
We had a choice to humbly accept the punishment, take responsibility for the offense, choose to see if any good could come out of the situation, and see what God might want to teach us. Or, we could have tried to fight the punishment, make excuses, blame others, and become bitter and hardhearted toward the school staff. I couldn’t help but think of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was treated unfairly, but he was victorious. I sat my son down on the sofa to read to him the story of Joseph out of the Bible. It was so cool because as I read aloud in our living room, the Bible story became so captivating and intense, that soon the story had the attention of Remy’s younger brother and sister as well. I enjoyed reading through this story with my attentive family as it reminded us that when life is unfair and we feel like we are victims of injustice, God has a much greater plan if we will trust Him.
You may know the story, Joseph had ten older brothers who were jealous of him, planned to kill him, but decided to sell him as a slave instead. Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery where he used his positive attitude, spiritual gifts, and hard work to gain the promotion as manager of one of King Pharaoh’s officers, Potiphar. Joseph was then sent to prison after Potiphar’s wife unjustly accused him of attempting to rape her, although quite the opposite was true. Joseph was punished severely although he was innocent and was actually making God honoring decisions. Injustice! Joseph continued to find the right attitude, used his spiritual gifts, and after interpreting the king’s dreams, was promoted to second in command over all of Egypt. Long story short, Joseph forgave his brothers, was reconciled with his family, saved his family from starvation and certain death, and was used for the glory and purpose of God! Joseph never seemed to think of himself as a victim, but rather saw his circumstances as an opportunity to be a part of God’s greater, larger, better plan.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people (Gen. 50:20).
Joseph acknowledged the sovereignty of God in his life. Joseph believed that God allowed terrible things to happen to him so that he could help save others! No doubt Joseph grieved, experienced sorrow, pain, rejection, and injustice. However, Joseph chose to rise above his circumstances, he did not assume the role of a victim, rather he allowed God to use him despite life’s unfairness. Joseph teaches us to focus forward and outward rather than focus backward and inward. Joseph was spiritually mature. Joseph forgave his betrayers, he reconciled with his dysfunctional family, and he experienced victory. Joseph points us to Jesus. Joseph is actually a “type and shadow” of Christ and he models how we ought to live with a victorious mindset despite our circumstances.
Jesus was treated unfairly, but He was (and still is) victorious – on our behalf. As believers, we are victors in Christ; we do not have to live like victims in this world, nor should we ever dare try to overstep God and vindicate ourselves. In reality, we are all victims of sin, of our own sin, and the sin of others. We do experience injustice, and we do suffer great pain, but we need not buy into the lies of the enemy, believing that we were “dealt a bad hand”, or that we deserve better. I believe that this sort of thinking is offensive to our Sovereign God who allows pain and suffering, through it He has a greater plan and purpose, and He paid the ultimate price so that we can live victoriously now and forever. Unbiblical thinking is a dangerous trap that can potentially leave even the most well intentioned Christians feeling angry, bitter, hostile, and defeated. We can either use our terrible circumstances to blame God and others, or we can choose to use our terrible circumstances as an opportunity to be used by God and to serve others! This mindset that Christ desires for us to have is counter-culture, but it is so powerful, liberating, and is available to us.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:10-12 NIV).
Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:16 NIV). Through Christ, we are overcomers! Jesus defeated sin and death for everyone. Jesus suffered for me, for you, and for our foes. He willingly suffered for us more than we will ever suffer. Jesus did not deserve death, rather He offered Himself willingly (2 Cor. 5:21). Thank God that Jesus did not demand entitlement, rather He humbled Himself, submitted to the will of the Father, and won for us the title of heirs of His eternal kingdom (Phil. 2:5-8). Thank God that Jesus did not seek justice and comfort for Himself, rather He yielded to injustice and suffering, and thus won for us a title of justified (Titus 3:3-7).
Remember, Jesus has redeemed us and has adopted us as His sons and daughters. We have the promise of an eternal inheritance, and we are children of the King (Gal. 4:1-7). Through the completed work on the cross, Jesus now presents us blameless, spotless, and justified in the sight of Almighty God! This is who we are as children of God! Jesus rose from the dead and He is alive! The Spirit of God is available to you today, to give you power over sin and victory over your circumstances. Do you believe this? This is the truth that we must constantly remind ourselves of.
Every single one of us suffers in this life and experiences deep hurts and pains as a result of sin. We are all exposed to great evils and we are all subjected to circumstances and situations that are unjust and are many times out of our control. Regardless of my current situation, my struggles, pains, heartaches, sicknesses, persecutions, wherever I find myself today, whether just or unjust, in order to live the victorious life that God intends for me, I must believe that God is sovereign, He is in control, He is just, righteous, holy, worthy of my praise, worthy of my worship, and is working all things out for my good no matter how painful, challenging, or unfair.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Rom. 5:3-4)
In chapter 5 of his book, Worship His Majesty, Jack Hayford eloquently communicates that, “our ruling with Christ always flows from a partnership of dying with Christ” (pg. 71). There is a cost of surrendering our will, but we can truly experience Christ’s freedom and power in every area of our lives when we do surrender our will to Him. We do not need to fight for our will to be done, but rather when we submit to God’s will, we make room for the supernatural to take place and win the real battle which is a spiritual battle that only the Spirit of God can win. We must die to ourselves, crucify our entitlements, bury our victimization’s, and let the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead rule in our hearts and minds so that we live victoriously as we ought.
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10-11 NLT)!
I dare not pretend that I understand the pain that you are going through or have gone through. I will not pretend to understand how or why others maybe have abused you, have taken advantage of you, or have betrayed you. However, Jesus does not pretend; He knows, He suffered; He was abused and betrayed on your behalf so that you could be set free from the grip of sin. It may not feel like it at the moment, but God has a good plan for you! In spite of your circumstances, you were made to experience a victorious life in Jesus and to serve others. Let’s choose to have a mind like Joseph and Jesus, and use our painful circumstances to somehow help others and bring glory to God.
Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
Be encouraged today and may we choose to love others as we are loved by Him, forgive others as He forgives us, show mercy to others as He shows us mercy, and extend grace to others, as we are the grateful recipients of His amazing grace. Do not let the temporary things of this world distract you, lie to you, and confuse you. Let’s remember that we are part of God’s grand love story that is still unfolding. Let’s joyfully remember who we really are. That God passionately pursues us. He loves us. He adopted us. He paid for our sins. We have an eternal inheritance, an imperishable crown. We are children of God. We have the Holy Spirit in us. We are victors in Christ (Rom. 8:14-39). We need to take this truth with us into every area of our lives, and we must reject any opposing thoughts or ideas. We must fill our minds with the truth of God’s Word, live in church community, and always be aware of who we are and whose we are. If we truly believe who we are in Christ, and we begin to view ourselves the way that God views us, we will live more joyful, hopeful, victorious, purposeful lives. Chin up!