Joseph #6 “To The Faithful You Show Yourself Faithful”
Genesis 41:1-52 October 10, 2004
SI: Studying the life of Joseph. This chapter, greatest turning point in life.
This sets the stage for the greatest work God was going to do through Joseph,
the salvation and spiritual renewal of his family.
INTRO: Fat-free sour cream.
I have never, to my knowledge, eaten so called “fat-free sour cream.”
It might taste fine—but it bugs me.
They shouldn’t be able to sell something called “fat-free sour cream.”
Cream is, by definition, milk fat. You can’t have fat-free fat.
You could have “fat-free sour milk” which would be “sour skim milk.”
But “fat-free” and “cream” are two words that don’t go together.
Let me test your theology.
Tell me if these two words go together: grace and reward.
Don’t answer out loud, but hold that thought.
We have seen over and over that the story of Joseph
is a story of the providence and faithfulness of God.
In an amazing way Lord led Joseph to this position as prime minister of Egypt.
The Lord put Joseph there so that he could be God’s instrument for the salvation,
spiritual renewal, and transformation of his dysfunctional family.
From that family, from the line of Joseph’s brother Judah, would one day come
Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. God’s grace written large.
Can pick up Joseph’s story at any point, talk about God’s providence, faithfulness.
God brought Joseph into trials so he could save him then use him to save brothers.
So the whole story is one of God’s grace to helpless, guilty sinners.
That is the story of the whole Bible.
But there is another theme that runs through this story—
Joseph’s faithfulness and the reward that came to him for his faithfulness.
He was faithful in his work—even as a slave, even in prison.
He won the confidence of everyone because he was conscientious, trustworthy.
Worked that way because he worked for God.
He was faithful when Potiphar’s wife tempted. Faithful to demands of holiness.
He suffered for that faithfulness. He was faithful in that unjust suffering.
He was patient and had sympathy for fellow prisoners.
He was faithful in his speech. Always spoke truth, made faith known, glory to God. The very first thing out of Joseph’s mouth when he met Pharaoh was a correction
of Pharaoh’s theology. Pharaoh gave Joseph credit that belonged to God.
Most men would have been afraid to give offense, but Joseph wasn’t.
God rewarded Joseph for his faithfulness.
There is no question that if you could have asked Joseph why he was so
conscientious in his work, always able to win the confidence of those over him,
he would have said—It is all the Lord.
If you could have asked him how he resisted Potiphar’s wife—God enabled me to.
If you asked how he became Prime Minister of Egypt—by God’s faithfulness to me
But also true that Joseph became Prime Minister because he was faithful to God.
We are given no reason to think that if Joseph would have become Prime Minister
if he had not been faithful in his work, or in the matter of Potiphar’s wife,
or in speaking the truth.
So what was your answer? Grace and reward, do they go together?
Grace is God’s undeserved favor. Reward is something you earn for service.
They are opposites so they can’t go together. You are right.
But, the Bible never shies away from saying
that the Lord rewards those who are faithful to him,
even as it teaches us that without God’s grace you can do nothing.
Both God’s grace to undeserving sinners and God’s reward to his faithful sons
are taught in the Bible from first to last.
Both are an essential part of the Christian life.
The Apostle Paul said,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.”
He also said,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in
store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award to me
on that day.”
It would be interesting to ask, How do these fit together?
But I don’t think we would get very far.
One of the mysteries of the Christian life. God’s sovereignty, our responsibility.
I think there is a much more practical question Joseph’s story prompts us to ask.
How should Christians use the Bible’s teaching
that God rewards those who are faithful to him?
What’s the benefit of this doctrine for living the Christian life?
How can it bring you closer to God and Christ?
Look at it in two parts:
1. The misuse of the Bible’s teaching about rewards for faithfulness.
2. The right use of the Bible’s teaching about rewards for faithfulness.
MP#1 The misuse of the Bible’s teaching about rewards for faithfulness.
May seem like a strange place to start—but this is often misused by Christians.
Sometimes aren’t even aware we are doing it.
But all of the great doctrines of Christian faith can be misused.
Salvation by grace. If saved by grace, nothing I do, then doesn’t matter how I live.
Two ways the doctrine of rewards is misused.
1. When you use it to try to manipulate God.
God, I’ve done my part. Now, you have to do yours and bless me.
Lord, I’ve been obedient to you in this area—now, you have to reward me.
I’ve been faithful, now you have to give me a husband.
Now you have to give me a child.
Now you have to give me relief from my depression.
Now you have to change my spouse into a better person.
You can’t use your faithfulness to manipulate God into giving you rewards.
There is huge movement in the church today that teaches you can manipulate God.
If you watch TBN, for example, you will hear this teaching.
It’s often called the “health and wealth Gospel.”
It has other names. It’s been called the “name it, claim it” doctrine.
But the terms the preachers themselves prefer is “word faith” teaching
or “positive confession” teaching.
There are hundreds of thousands of Christians who are taught this—huge churches.
This is not a tiny, isolated movement.
Basically what these preachers and churches say is that if you do certain things,
and believe certain things, then God has to bless you. He has to reward you.
If you imagine and visualize something that you want.
If you name it before God in prayer. If you claim it in Jesus’ name.
If you do those things with enough faith, then God is obligated to give it to you.
He has to. If he doesn’t, you have no one to blame but yourself.
If you don’t have a Cadillac in driveway, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.
If you haven’t been healed from cancer, it’s because you don’t have enough faith.
And very often one of the demonstrations of that faith is giving to the ministry.
Give $50 and God will give you $500, $500 and he will give you $5,000.
If that money doesn’t come to you, because didn’t give with enough faith.
You may think I am exaggerating this teaching—but I’m not.
It is even worse than I am describing. Leading teachers more and more bizarre.
When you hear this teaching you just shake your head and wonder:
Are we reading the same Bible?
Yes, there are Joseph’s in the Bible.
God rewarded Joseph with great wealth for his faithfulness.
But there are also Paul’s in the Bible.
God rewarded Paul with chains and prison for his faithfulness.
God is sovereign. He decides how to treat his children and he treats us differently.
He decides how to distribute his rewards for faithfulness.
The story of Joseph makes that plain.
I know that none of you are going to fall for the health and wealth Gospel.
But the reason I described it is because I hope all of you can see how ugly it is.
You see how it goes against all that the Bible teaches about the sovereignty
and providence of God in his dealings with us.
When you say to God, You owe me, you are expressing the same ugly sentiments.
Don’t ever think you can demand God reward you for faithfulness.
The Lord will reward your faithfulness. But he is sovereign.
He does it in his time and in his way.
He might even reward you by taking you to heaven sooner than you expected.
Another way the Bible’s teaching about rewards is misused is . . .
2. When you use it to commend yourself.
This is particularly a temptation to Christians who are healthy and wealthy.
They look at their health and wealth, the success of home and business
and they say, “The Lord has really blessed me.”
And they are right. Every single good thing we have, no matter how small,
comes straight to us from God the Father’s hand.
But then healthy and wealthy Christians say, “So I must be doing just fine.”
In other words, they use blessings God has poured out on their lives
as a gauge to judge their faithfulness.
I’m blessed, therefore I must be living a faithful life.
The Bible’s teaching about rewards should never be used this way.
All your blessings are not rewards for faithfulness.
Song we sang earlier in the service made that clear.
Romans 2 told that the kindness of the Lord leads to repentance.
Lord often pours out blessings so that you will be moved by his kindness
and repent of your sin and coldness toward him.
But if you look at your blessings and say, I must be doing fine—
that will not lead to repentance, but to spiritual complacency and pride.
You will end up misusing God’s blessings and when troubles come
you will find that you have little on which to stand.
This was a huge problem in the OT church.
The prophets came again and again and preached repentance.
Called the people to turn back to the Lord.
But at the time the nation of Israel was prosperous.
Times were good. Amos talks about people having summer and winter houses.
So people said, What? We’re fine. God is happy with us. Look at our rewards.
Then, when troubling times came, totally unprepared.
This is one of the big weaknesses of the American church.
Even though American Christians are wealthiest in world—give lower percentage
of income than gave during Great Depression.
Even though American Christians are freest in world—give less and less time
to corporate worship of God.
We have subconsciously made our prosperity a measure of our faithfulness.
Think that if we are this blessed, things must be fine.
Joseph is so helpful here.
Even though the blessings he received were clearly rewards for faithfulness,
he did not use those rewards to commend himself. Complacent. Proud.
And after Joseph rose to power, he was the very same faithful man.
He was just as conscientious as when he had been a slave.
He didn’t give work to others. Traveled all over Egypt, doing work well.
Not a hint that Joseph sought revenge—against Potiphar and wife, cupbearer.
Man still faithful in patience and sympathy.
Never rested on rewards, but always pushed on to greater faithfulness.
MP#2 The right use of the Bible’s teaching about rewards for faithfulness.
Mention two of them.
1. When you use it as a motivation to faithfulness.
As a Christian, you need to understand the various ways the Lord motivates you
to stay on the straight and narrow path and keep eyes on Christ.
It took me a long time to figure this out this matter of motivations of Scripture
but several years ago I was talking to an older and wiser Christian and he
said one thing that made everything click. A hierarchy of motivations in Bible.
Imagine a pyramid, at the very top is love. Love greatest motive of Christian life.
Love the Lord your God with all heart, soul, strength, and mind.
Love your neighbor as yourself—all commandments contained.
St. Augustine. Love God and do as you please.
If you love God you will only be pleased to do his will.
So the love of God and love for God the great motive to faithfulness.
But there are other motives in the Bible that Lord uses to keep us faithful.
In heaven these motives will disappear because we will love perfectly.
But in our life here, these motives are valid and good, in the Bible.
The warnings of Scripture are a motivation God uses.
“Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name,
and perform many miracles, and drive out demons. But I will say to them, Depart from me,
I never knew you.”
Jesus’ words scare me. Times those words bring cold sweat.
Lord Jesus, save me. Help me not trust my works but trust in you.
Warnings against falling away. Warnings against coldness, apathy. Motivation.
The promise of rewards are another motivation God uses.
So many places in Bible. From beginning to end.
“The Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.”
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things be given to you as well.”
Keep in mind all we said earlier about God’s sovereign dealing with us.
He gives his rewards as he sees fit, in his time and way.
Keep in mind that Christian life is all grace. God’s grace over and under us.
God’s grace enabling us to live faithfully.
God’s grace covering our sins so that we can even talk about faithfulness.
But even in the world of sovereign grace,
the Bible clearly speaks of rewards for faithfulness.
Lord uses this as a motivation to stir you up to faithful living.
This means that if there is something lacking in your life—
you need to be willing to ask yourself,
“Could it be that I don’t have this because there is no faithfulness in my life
for the Lord to reward?”
James says that “You do not have, because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives.”
Could it be that your failure to be faithful in prayer has diminished the measure
of blessing in your life?
Peter says, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat
them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so
that nothing may hinder your prayers.”
Could it be that your failure to be a considerate, respectful husband has hindered
your prayers to God, and so certain good things are lacking from your life?
Could it be that because you have not made the seeking of God’s kingdom first,
and delighted yourself in the Lord, and made every effort to walk blamelessly,
that you are living with less of God’s blessing than you could have?
Claim God’s promised rewards. Determine to live faithfully from this day forward.
Wonderful thing about the Christian life. Each day is new in Christ.
If you have been unfaithful in the past, suffered for it. Repent and move ahead.
Faithfulness can grow in you just as it grew in Joseph.
Another right use of the Bible’s teaching about rewards is . . .
2. When you use rewards to increase your reliance on Christ.
It wasn’t easy for Joseph to work conscientiously, for God’s glory as a slave.
It wasn’t easy to resist Potiphar’s wife.
It wasn’t easy to correct Pharaoh’s theology and give God glory.
Just think how hard in own life glorify God in work, resist lust, speak truth.
You know the metaphors for the Christian life—it’s a fight, it’s a race.
But there are prizes along the way and there is a great prize at the end.
Christ holds those prizes out to you.
“He who perseveres to the end will be saved.”
“See I am coming soon and my reward is with me.”
Every Christian wants to hear Jesus’ words of commendation one day:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
If you take these promised rewards seriously, if want them, pursue them—
will soon discover your weakness.
You will find yourself leaning on Jesus Christ more and more.
What ends up happening to Christians who really pursue faithfulness—
when the rewards and honors come, they say—
“It wasn’t me, it was the Lord. Look what God did.”
Recently re-read biography of William Carey. Missionary to India.
Father of modern missions. Is forever honored in history of church.
Carey faced incredible hardships in India—just one, wife insane for 13 years.
Always there was the option of returning to England.
Hardships caused Carey to lean more on Christ.
And he was rewarded. Bible translated, printed in over 40 languages.
Permanent missionary presence in India.
Laws passed for good of people—like abolition of widow burning.
As he was dying in India, England suddenly woke up and realized what
this self-educated shoe maker had accomplished.
As dignitaries and church leaders came to visit him, talked about accomplishments,
the great honors and rewards of a faithful life.
But Carey would just shake his head and say in a whisper—“What has God done.”
The pursuit of a faithful life that God will honor always throws you on Christ
for strength to persevere. So every reward, every honor, every blessing that
comes from Lord’s gracious hand is ultimately an opportunity to give praise
and glory to Him for what He has done in your life.
And that is exactly what you see in Joseph.
Joseph didn’t name his sons, “I have been faithful.”
He gave his sons names that both spoke of the Lord’s faithfulness to him.
God has made me forget my sorrows.
God has made me fruitful in the land of suffering.
Pursue the rewards that God promises to the faithful—as you do, you will find
yourself leaning on Jesus more and more.
He will become your treasure. When rewards come, will say,
Look what God has done. And He will be glorified in you.
Grace and reward. Do they go together?
Every blessing of life, not just salvation, every blessing is a gift of God’s
grace to us, undeserving sinners, through Jesus Christ.
“His grace has planned it all, tis mine but to receive.”
And, in this world of sovereign grace, the Lord says to his sons and daughters—
“To the faithful I show myself faithful.”
“He who honors me I will honor.”
Love for God is the greatest motive of the Christian life,
But the Lord wants you to remember that in keeping his commands,
there is great reward.