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Abide

Abide

Waking up last Sunday morning to the news that our brothers and sisters were killed during church service hits close to home. Did anyone else consider that it could have been our church? Or the church of a friend or family member? The truth is the persecution foretold by Jesus is here. The Good news is those precious people went from worshipping Jesus to standing before Him in the blink of an eye. No matter the pain we experience along the way, praise Jesus we have the hope of His company after this feeble life. 

The message preached on last Saturday was perfectly timed by God’s Goodness. When we are faced with such tragedy, we need a reminder––Jesus is our Source! In times like this, Jesus is our Safe Place. In situations where fear tries to gnaw at you, Jesus is waiting to hold you! When the persecution gets worse—and it will—we abide in Jesus! 

Jacob’s beloved Joseph learned this the hard way. Throughout human history, we witness God work through both the weaknesses and strengths of men. I think the story of Joseph illustrates this perfectly. In Genesis 37, Joseph is selected as Jacob’s favorite. His father gives him a brightly colored robe and a signet ring. Joseph’s eleven brothers disliked him, and Scripture says they couldn’t even speak peaceably toward him. 

Joseph has his dreams (of symbolic elements portraying his family bowing to him in reverence)  and proclaims them openly, which causes his brothers to dislike him even more. So, they hatch a plan to kill him. But the eldest son, Reuben, convinces his brothers not to kill Joseph, but to throw him in a pit instead. Afterward, they sit above and share a meal. I want to pause here. I think God illustrated it this way to show not only the calloused depth of hatred, but also the bitter pain of the betrayal. Can you picture it? Surely, Joseph wasn’t quiet. He probably continued to beg his brothers to rescue him, but they ignored his pleas and ate on. Ouch! It hurts my heart to picture the scene.  

During their meal, here comes a caravan of Ishmaelites. Judah has the idea to sell their brother for profit. In the end, the brothers receive twenty pieces of silver and Joseph is carried off to Egypt. In Genesis 39, we find that Joseph quickly becomes successful serving in the house of his Egyptian master, Potiphar. Scripture says the Lord was with Joseph and as a result, he found favor in his master’s sight and became his personal attendant. Potiphar puts him in charge of his household, placing everything he owns under Joseph’s authority. 

Honestly, this is the equivalent of us coming to the United States as immigrants and, within a matter of months, becoming second-in-command to the Vice President at the White House. Seriously, this is what happened to Joseph! But, it doesn’t last for long. Beauty gets in the way for Joseph and sends him flying back down into another pit. Potiphar’s wife comes onto to Joseph, (Scripture says “day after day” in Genesis 39.10) but he refuses. He even had the right motive in verse 9: “No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?”

Guess what? Joseph was thrown in prison anyway, and left there for two years! That’s 730 days! He did nothing wrong! In fact, he acted righteously in the face of strong temptation. Can you picture the things Joseph must’ve said to the Lord during that time?! I know what I would’ve said: “First, my brothers wanted me dead. Then, they sold me. I’m ripped away from my father and my home. I work hard to be trustworthy only to be rewarded with prison. What gives?” 

So, you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with abiding in Jesus. I’m glad you asked. Perhaps the two years Joseph spent in prison was for the Lord to teach him something. Maybe God was showing Joseph how to dwell in Him and trust Him no matter his circumstances. Like Pastor John said, “God has a purpose for the pain.” Even the experiences of the beloved Joseph were no exception.  

What happens to Joseph after his two years in training? Joseph comes out a different man! He learned that he is NOT the solution (John said that!) and he was reminded Who is in charge (Joseph tells Pharaoh in Genesis 41.16, “I cannot [interpret your dream…] but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires”)! Joseph is exalted and once again put in charge of all the land of Egypt, but this time directly under Pharaoh, which is a promotion (now, we would be second to the President)! 

Another story comes to mind. Jairus, a leader of the Synagogue, approaches Jesus about his only daughter, twelve years old, who was at death’s door. He fell at Jesus’ feet and pleads for Him to heal his daughter. Jesus agrees and begins to walk that way, but an interruption occurs.  “While He was going, the crowds were nearly crushing Him. A woman suffering from bleeding for twelve years who had spent all she had on doctors yet could not be healed by any, approached from behind and touched the tassel of His robe. Instantly her bleeding stopped” (Luke 8.42b-44).

Jesus feels the power leave Him and stops walking. Go with me here: Jairus is standing there, frantic because his daughter is dying, and Jesus is stopping to ask who touched Him in a crowd “hemming” Him in. The woman falls at His feet and confesses, to which He says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace” (Luke 8.48). Jairus is still waiting for Jesus to heal his daughter while all this is taking place. What do you think he was doing? Wearing down the sand under his feet from pacing? Trying not to butt in and make his problem more important than this woman’s illness? He was a synagogue leader after all.  

“While He (Jesus) was still speaking, someone came from the synagogue leader’s house, saying, your daughter is dead. Don’t bother the Teacher anymore” (Luke 8.49)...the absolute worst news a parent can hear. Jairus probably began weeping...he might’ve even torn his robe. But Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe, and she will be made well (Luke 8.50). Jesus arrives at Jairus’ house and with two Aramaic words, he raises the dead. “Talitha Koum:” Child, rise. 

While Jairus only had to wait a matter of minutes for his miracle, as parents, we can imagine that was the longest few minutes of his life. To me this illustrates the faithfulness of God! Jesus agrees to help Jairus, but did not refuse to heal someone else on the way! Our King is faithful and trustworthy! When He gives His Word, it’s Truth! It is critical that we recognize He’s working with us all along the way, though.

No matter what you’re going through now or will go through in the future, dwell with the King of the World! Abide in His Word and believe in Him! Whether you’re a Joseph, seemingly going from bad to worse, or you are Jairus, temporarily interrupted by another saint, abide. Always abide! We can’t count on many things in this life, but consider this your reminder—of this you can be certain: we have our King! We can dwell in Jesus, no matter our circumstances!  

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