“This is the most precious answer God can give us: wait. It makes us cling to him rather than to an outcome. God knows what I need; I do not. He sees the future; I cannot. His perspective is eternal; mine is not. He will give me what is best for me when it is best for me.” ~ Vaneetha Rendall Risner
As Christians add guilt when forced to wait, because we are supposed to delight in hardships! Gen 40 is about waiting… Joseph is in prison, he had done nothing wrong, waiting for who knows what…we know the end of the story but he doesn’t… at the end of the chapter he is still in prison. The last words are haunting: READ Gen. 40:23.
Often we are not told how the characters in the Bible stories feel. We can guess how Joseph felt when the baker forgot about Joseph after he was released from prison. He probably felt like we do when people don’t follow through. “I’ll call you sometime” says a new friend and the call never comes. “I’ll help you with that project” but the time is never right. I try hard to follow through if I make a commitment to somebody in the community, because with our hyper busy world making commitments and not following through is common….
When Joseph asked the Baker to remember him when released from prison, he must have begun to imagine an opportunity for redemption/freedom… when other people let me down, if I’m not careful, it is easy t slip into a mindset where we blame God… “What have I done, God, to deserve this…” it is easy to transfer the blame to God…. When Gen. 40 ends by telling us that the baker forgot about Joseph that is an invitation for us to imagine how we feel when we are overlooked. / have to wait….
(The focus today is on the need to overcome impatience as we are forced to wait. Just a quick word about dreams because dreams are obviously a way that God has chosen to speak to two of Joseph’s fellow prison mates in Gen. 40. Joseph earlier had dreams and a dream of Pharaoh is coming up. Some people think dreams are no longer needed because we have the N.T. (not sure what that means)… I personally don’t hear God speaking through dreams a whole lot, but who am I to say there aren’t messages of encouragement, even warnings… very subjective….)
One person said, “Waiting is … the hardest discipline of the Christian life.” Is that true for you? Waiting is not easy, which is probably why the Bible has many stories and words of wisdom to remind us to not worry, to not doubt, to not grow weary… One person who learned to live well in hard situations was little Kay Bishop in our church, blind the last years of her life, frail… she used to say, “I thank God I don’t have a restless soul.”….
We spend a lot of time waiting... How do we thrive and not wilt while we wait. Joseph’s example: Be faithful, Be ready, Be bold…
1. Be Faithful. READ Gen. 40:1-4. We don’t know how long Joseph had been in prison when the cupbearer and baker arrive. From Joseph’s perspecive, this is another day. A glimmer of hope came with the release and restoration of the cupbearer, but Joseph had no way to know two years would pass before the next step of his eventual release would take place READ Gen. 41:1. How do you thrive while you wait?
How do you keep going when your hopes crumble? We don’t know for sure Joseph’s psyche in this time of waiting. He probably had sleepless nights, yet after two years he emerges as a man of integrity. Joseph’s faith in God sustains him.… I like to think faith is active, … At the end of two years, Joseph remained faithful to God and to his duties entrusted to him while in prison.
I like what one person said: ”The secret of your future is found in your daily routine.” When God appears to be barely active, keep serving him… when I was six or so, I was lost on a path in the woods on a family trip. I left first and took the wrong trail. It seemed like hours and obody caught up with me. I can still imagine slowing down barely shuffling my feet, but I never stopped going forward… that real experience has become symbolic, to keep going forward even when I feel lost, not sure what’s going on, but keep in the daily service of God, make the phone calls I need to make, the daily decisions, to keep being faithful. Maybe that’s something like what it was for Joseph.
Another person, (Ray Pritchard) said, “The things you do every day, especially the little things that make up the routine of life, those are the seeds of your future that you sow every day. It reminds me of what the Preacher said in Ecc 9:10, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’”
Here’s a powerful truth: Faithfulness is its own reward. While you are wait be faithful in the little things… while waiting for more income, your friends to quit being stupid, opportunity to get back on track with life goals… be faithful in the daily opportunities… Joseph had no idea it would be two years that he would be released from prison. He kept on keeping on… Over the years I’ve sold a lot of items on ebay, at one time important supplemental income (my father drove bus, I chose Ebay!). I sold 100’s of small things and only a few big profit. One person told me he did not want to bother with the small things, not worth it, and only sold high ticket items. I can’t say he was wrong for him, but I thought that is not true for me at all… if I make $5 on 20 items that’s $100, which is the same as profiting $100 on a single higher ticket item… Be a person of faith in the ordinary everyday world while you wait and you will thrive. Maybe a single act of service seems small, but when it becomes a way of life, the Lord will be faithful… Faithfulness is its own reward ~ you’ll be transformed, sustained, a godly strength
A prayer attributed to Brother Lawrence, a Christian monastic who labored in the kitchen of a medieval monastery with a desire to see God in the ordinary routine of life:
Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I've no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven's gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee. Amen.
#1 Be faithful and #2 Be Ready. Read Gen. 40:5-8. The cupbearer and baker have dreams which give Joseph an opening. In Gen., 37 dreams had an important role in Joseph’s life, and here it is again. He sees confusion on the faces of the baker and cupbearer and testifies to God’s power and offers his service to them. He’s ready. Be ready for open doors. Be ready while you wait for God to give you opportunity. Be faithful in the little things and be ready when something bigger crosses your path. Joseph could have said, “you know what guys, I had an experience with dreams that ultimately got me thrown into a pit, sold as a slave in Egypt, unfairly accused of rape and now I’m in jail, so my advice is to ignore your dreams.” But he doesn’t do that. He says, let me tell you about God and see if I can help…
We need to be ready like a second string quarterback. You never know when you will be called upon to go into a game. Evan Sharpley was a back up quarterback at Notre Dame. He wrote about the experience: “Backup quarterbacks have to prepare each week like they are going to play, without knowing for sure if it will actually happen. Over my career, I experienced stretches of not playing, then playing on and off, and then starting games….As much as I wanted to play all the time, I relished the challenge of staying focused each week. I looked at myself as the most important player on the team….(www.notredamefcu.com/blog/what-makes-great-backup-quarterback)
Are you ready to serve God right where you are, even when you’d rather be doing something obviously exciting? Be faithful and be ready!
#3. Be Bold ~ When you read Genesis 40, you discover that Joseph tells the cupbearer that he will be released in three days and restored to his former position. No doubt he was delighted to hear the news. Then Joseph adds a personal request. READ Gen. 40:14-15.
Joseph is bold. God honors our honest boldness. Is Joseph being selfish at this point. I think he is saying I don’t really get what God is doing, I don’t deserve this, but here I am and I’m ready for God to get moving! Be bold. It’s still all God’s timing. It’s still God’s design. Ask in prayer for the desires of your heart and God may say Yes, he may say no, or he may say wait some more… and if in boldness you keep asking and God says wait then go back to step 1 again and continue being faithful!
I like the bit of advice one person had in how to make it through the everyday world where you are not quite sure how you’ll get from point A to point B in God’s grand design, “Have a Blast While You Last.” (Ray Pritchard story of his secretary)
While you are waiting think big, think bold. Be faithful, be ready, be bold! Another wise saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” When you are bold asking God for purpose, somehow God will honor your prayer. Something happens when we learn to wait. The only reason waiting is a chore is because we face the disappointment of broken dreams and we imagine something else. So we wait with faith, ready and bold. And often something happens… How often the very situation we think is tedious becomes the greatest purpose… Being a mother can be tedious, testing a person’s patience, but tell me a greater honor… serving at the foodbank can be a great reward…
Waiting can be so hard. Broken dreams, expectations, wondering what God is up to. While you are waiting be faithful in the everyday things, be ready at a moments notice, be bold in expressing your desires. One way or another, God will instill in you a sense of purpose.
One more point. I like to imagine that the last words in Gen. 40 are unspoken words which summarize the rest of the Joseph for another 10 chapters. READ Gen. 40:23.
For those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you need to add a couple of unspoken words to the end of the verse. Even though the cupbearer forgot Joseph, even though that can be incredibly frustrating and depressing when things don’t work out as you expect, add these words on the end: READ Gen. 40:23 again and add, BUT GOD DID NOT FORGET!
That’s what the rest of the story of Joseph is about. The baker forgot Joseph. But God didn’t. He hasn’t forgotten you either. As you wait, be faithful, be ready, be bold. God knows exactly what is doing and he has not forgotten you. Amen.