Cal Jernigan – Senior Pastor
This past week I was sitting in our Ironman Bible Study listening to Perry Emerick teach on the subject of bitterness. This outstanding message was about Joseph and all the things he had happen to him of which he had every right to become bitter. The big point was that he chose not to. Instead, he trusted God, and if you know the story, it worked out really well for him. After languishing in prison for nearly 20 years he was made second in command to Pharaoh and became an extremely powerful man. Of course the best part of the story is when his brothers (who sold him into slavery which started the whole prison thing) came and had to beg him for food, only to ultimately discover who this guy really was. This very powerful man was none other than their brother whom they had terribly wronged. What makes the story so remarkable is that Joseph had the perfect opportunity to take revenge and yet he chose not to. For this, he is forever remembered as a great guy and a role model worth following. But this got me to thinking…
It seems to me that when we read the Bible we often take comfort, and then instruction, only after we know how the story turns out. In other words, we know we should be like Joseph and not become bitter when really nasty things happen to us because if we hang in there long enough we might very well get a chance to get back at those who harmed us. We’ll decide later whether or not we really want to forgive them (we probably will because that’s what we’re supposed to do) when given the chance to strike back. But (big question coming) what if we never get such a chance? Can we still forgive?
How often would the story of Joseph be told if it had turned out differently? You know, if a more common outcome would have occurred–a more realistic thing happened. What if Joseph just died of old age in prison because he didn’t have the ability to interpret dreams and wasn’t given an opportunity to take a shot at interpreting Pharaoh’s dream? He just died an obscure man languishing in an obscure prison?
Another example, what would have happened if David would have taken his big shot at Goliath and yet didn’t actually kill him? You know, he gave it his best shot but he was just a little off in his aim and missed Goliath’s forehead but popped him on the ear instead? (Ever had your ear hit before?) What would have happened if Goliath would have become extremely ticked off like you and I get when we stub our toe? How often would that story get told in church?
What if when they crucified Jesus, and then buried him in the tomb, he didn’t rise from the dead? What if he would have just been dead like so many other dead people are? What if those who wanted him dead had celebrated their victory in finally putting him out of their minds?
Bottom line? What if? It simply doesn’t matter. Why? This isn’t how it turned out. Joseph rose to power and chose to forgive, David killed Goliath, and Jesus rose from the dead. These are historical accounts of things that have happened in the past. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how it all worked out. But who gets to live their life through hindsight? Not Joseph, not David, not Jesus, not you and not me.
Bottom line, your story is being lived today. You don’t get the benefit of knowing what the outcome of your choices will be in the future. If someone wrongs you, you must choose today whether you will opt for bitterness or forgiveness. If you take on some mighty huge challenge you might just pull it off, or you might fail. If you place your trust in Jesus and chose to live for him you’ll just have to contend with the fact that some of your friends will think you are simply crazy. Time will tell.
So what should you do? You should just do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. You should just do what you believe God is leading you to do. You make the choices, God determines the outcome.Click here for the photo credit on this post