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The Law of Process

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

Welcome to this radio broadcast of Words of Life. We are so glad you have tuned in. Maybe this is the first time that you have tuned in to Words of Life so you have not heard us before.  We have a variety of men of God who come on board as speakers. Their goal, their purpose, is to share with you good news from the Word of God, to call your attention to the fact that God loves you, that Jesus is alive today, that he came to be our sin bearer. We are glad to share the good news that he promised to bless and to lead us, to see us through life and then to see us into eternity.

I would like for you to think today as we look at the life of an Old Testament man of God. We are going to think about the law of process. Every life is a life of process.  That is, we are moving on. We are learning.  Every day is a learning experience. We are doing something even if we are doing nothing. There is a sense in which we are doing something if we just lay around like a lazy bum. We are doing that, aren’t we?  We are both failing and succeeding.  We try things and do things and we may succeed and maybe we do not.

I recently had to undertake a plumbing problem at the house and I am one of those who has two left hands, as it were, and not very good at that. But I rejoiced at the end of the day when I was able to be successful in that plumbing project. What a good feeling it was to be successful.

But, oh, let me tell you. I have had enough of those failures when you take something apart and you think you have got it back together and, uh, oh, here are some parts left over. Why did I leave those out?

What about life? Life is a process of becoming something, becoming somebody.  What are your goals? What do you see as your purpose in living? What is your hope?

Someone asked a man on one occasion what his hope was for the next 10 years of his life and he said, “Well, I am an attorney and I am going to get a very good practice and I am going to handle a lot of cases and build a law practice and make a lot of money.” Well, what about the next 10 years of your life?  He said, “Well, I will still be young enough and I will continue that process and continue to build the business.” Well, ok, what about 20 years from there?  “Well, by then I am going to be getting old and it will be about retirement time and probably I will just retire and find a nice place to live and just take it easy.” Well, what is going to happen after that? “Well, I will get real old and eventually I will die.”  And then the final question. What then?

We have gone through our life’s process of 60, 70, 80, however many years it might be, but it is appointed unto man once to die and after that there will be a judgment. What then is the key question?  Have you made arrangements while you are alive to face what happens after you die?

Think about your life. Success in any field—and we are interested, most of all, in our spiritual life and spiritual success in becoming more like Jesus Christ, but it all involves growth.  It involves the capacity to develop, to develop our talents and our gifts and our ability to think and to do and to improve the various skills which we have.  Successful people are learners.  We are in a never ending process of life.

A great basketball player of past years was a man named Larry Bird. It is said that as a young man in high school Larry Bird shot 500 free throws every morning before he went to school. Is it any wonder that when he became a college player he was outstanding and all American? Is it any wonder he became a pro player that was an outstanding player?  He was in process of becoming a great basketball player. But in the process, he was learning and doing, failing and succeeding and becoming what he was.

The Old Testament tells the story of a young man named Joseph. As a teenager Joseph had a divine dream. That is, it was a dream from God. And God revealed to him that he would one day be in a very significant leadership role. Even his older brothers—and he had several—would be in submission to him. However, years of preparation were required to get him ready for that leadership position. That is the process, you see. His early pride and immaturity, that is, when he was just a young teenager, God had to work on that. That had to be chiseled away before he could become a man worthy to live out those dreams.

Joseph progressed from the pit, where his brothers threw him and then sold him into slavery, from the pit to the prison. He was working for a man and was falsely accused and he was sent to jail. From the pit his brothers put him in, where he became a slave, to serving as head of a man’s household, to prison in Egypt. But in God’s plan he ended up in the palace. What a trip that was, what a process it was for young Joseph, a teenager, from the pit, to the prison, to the palace, every location representing a growth step for him in the process. He was becoming the leader God intended him to be.  He was about 30 years of age when he became second in command to Pharaoh. At least 23 years passed between the pit and the palace. Those were the years of process. Then when he was in the palace his brothers had to come to Egypt to get food and they didn’t know when they came they would be getting food from the brother they had sold into slavery.

This brother Joseph was, indeed a changed man.  He had aged, of course, from the age of a young teenager to the age of 30. He no doubt dressed as did the Egyptians. Probably his hair style was quite different and he was able to not look like they would have thought he would. And they never even thought about him being in such a high and holy position as this.

He had been through a process, not just one event, one thing had helped him pass from a young teenager to being second to Pharaoh. He was prepared in a crock pot, not a microwave. A crock pot, as you probably are aware, is a slow cooker. You put your food, your meat, or whatever in it and it can cook all day. It takes a while. It is, indeed, a process. The microwave cooks in just a few minutes.  Joseph was in a crock pot. He was in a long process.

And so it is for each and every one of us as it was for him, with this vision from God. Think about that. And he understood that it was from God.  Even when he had realized he had a God-given destiny to be in such a rulership position that his brothers would bow down to him, that he would become their ruler. Wow, what a situation he was in.

Let’s take the time to look more closely at this process in the life of Joseph and let’s ask God to give us a blessing from it.

Father, we are grateful for the opportunity to learn from your Word. We are grateful for great men of faith like Joseph and so many others. We are glad of their lives of faith and service. We are glad that they were able to put their trust in you, that you were able to work on them, to remove from them their flesh natures, those tendencies to not follow you, and you were able to make them great leaders and great men and women of faith. And so as we look at the life of Joseph, maybe someone listening this morning to this broadcast could realize their life is a process and perhaps for them it is not working very well. There are more failures than successes, Lord, more heartaches than joy. Would you somehow help them know that they can be like Joseph and put their trust in almighty God? They can seek his will,  follow in his way, the way that leads to everlasting life.  So may there be a hearer this morning that will be blessed by what we say. We ask of that help in teaching and in learning in the name of Jesus and amen.

As we go back and think about Joseph, think about his life, keep in mind he was a teenager, 13, 14, something like that when his brothers sold him into slavery and then lied to their father, telling him that Joseph had likely been killed by a wild animal.  Joseph, young teenager that he was, needed time to mature before he could become this great leader that was forecast by God in the dream. I love the story of the sign I saw in a place of business and it said to the teenagers, “Teenager, now is the time for you to leave home while you know everything.” The tendency is for teenagers to think they know more than mom and dad. They know more than their teachers and the principal at school. They know more than those older folks who have lived life and gone through the hard knocks.

Well, Joseph was just as human as anybody else and he needed time to mature. Perhaps he thought, “I am somebody special because God has given me this dream and I am going to be somebody big one of these days.”   He had to get rid of a problem of pride in his life. He needed the time and the process of growing up as we all do. He needed time to be both tested and then broken. There is no question he was a daddy’s boy. He was the son of his father’s old age.  There had been many times when we have seen families where a child comes along in the old age and the tendency is for that child to receive some special treatment, to be spoiled and cared for a little differently. Well, so it was with Joseph. He had received from his Father a special coat and now he had this dream from God that set him above his brothers.  He told his brothers, “You are going to bow down to me one of these days.”

I just well imagine their blood pressure shot up and they immediately began to think. What are we going to do with this ornery little brother of ours?  The result of their actions was that he went from favorite status to becoming a slave in a foreign land and eventually winding up in jail.

He needed time to mature. That is part of the process we all go through. He needed to be tested and he needed to be broken and that happened in his life.  When he was put in that pit, he did not know if they would just go away and leave him there. When he was sold into slavery he did not know what would happen when he wound up in Egypt, when he wound up in Potiphar’s house and all the things that went on there, and eventually in jail unjustly accused. God was in the process of testing him and even breaking Joseph and his pride in that process.

We could say that he knew self promotion would never replace divine promotion.  We may promote ourselves when we pat ourselves on the back, when we tell everybody how great we are, when we think more of ourselves than we ought to think, but the Scripture says we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to.

Joseph decided to grow where God planted him and that is what we all must do. When you put a tree or a flower seed in the ground it has to grow right where you plant it. It can’t grow somewhere else. If you put it in poor soil, it has to grow in poor soil. If you fail to water it and fertilize it and care for it and keep the weeds away from it, it still has to grow there. It might want to grow somewhere else. It would rather be in good ground, surely.  It would rather be getting necessary nutrients of fertilizer and what have you, but it has to grow where it was planted.

On his way to success, on his way to being second to the Pharaoh, he had to go through some poor ground, some dry times. It took time and some very, very unpleasant events.  Joseph had to determine to value difficult people and treat them as God’s instrument.  I think this may well have been among the hardest lessons for him, as it is for me and maybe for most of us who are trying to walk with God. This is a hard lesson to learn. There are going to be difficult people. There are going to be those that hurt our feelings, that don’t like us as we would want, those that may not treat us fairly. They may cause us to seek to be bitter or to be harsh. Joseph certainly had reason to be that way toward his brothers. His brothers sold him into slavery.  Certainly he could have treated them harshly. The difficult slave traders didn’t handle him with kid gloves.  When Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph and Potiphar had him sent to jail, he had every reason to be bitter. These were difficult situations in his life.

While he was in jail, two jail mates had dreams and Joseph interpreted those dreams and it happened exactly as he said. Both of these would be released and one of them would go back to serve the king and continue to serve him. One would go back to the king and they would hang him. Well, it came true and Joseph said before they left, “When you get out, can you go to the king? You tell him about me and try to get me out of here.”

Well, they forgot about Joseph. For two years he stayed on in jail, but one of them served the king and when the king had a dream that no one could interpret, finally, this ex jail mate of Joseph remembered. Oh, there is a fellow in jail. He might be able to interpret the dream. And they send for Joseph. Well, certainly Joseph could have been bitter. He could have been hard.  That sorry former inmate didn’t tell the king about him two years ago so he could possibly have gotten out of jail.

Finally, Joseph knew God would never use him until he was tested and proven.  Joseph, can you stand the heat?  Joseph, can you handle this difficult situation from Potiphar, from the slave traders, from jail? Joseph, can you go through difficult times that are not exactly what you want them to be? What a potential was in this young man Joseph? Others saw his potential. The jailer did. Potiphar did. Pharaoh did.  And they gave Joseph the opportunity at the right time to be put in that position.

What is our conclusion then? As a successful person, you can apply these principles to your parenting, to your husband wife relationships, to your teaching, your preaching, to being a doctor or a fireman or a laborer. Whatever you are, we are all going through a process with similar and sometimes very difficult circumstances. We need patience. We need to learn how to work hard. We need to learn how to get through difficult times. We need to have faith in God.

Listen to Joseph’s conclusion of this whole story in the book of Genesis chapter 50 beginning with verse 15 when Joseph’s father has died. His father had been brought down to Egypt. His father has died and now the brothers are scared that Joseph is going to have their heads off.  And when Joseph’s brethren saw their father was dead they said, “It may be Joseph will hate us.” Well, he had reason to, in my opinion.  “And he will requite us all the evil which we did to him.” And they sent this message to Joseph saying, “Your father did command before he died saying, ‘So shall you say to Joseph. Forgive, I pray thee now, the transgression of thy brethren and their sin for they did unto evil.’ Now, we pray thee, forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of thy father.”  And Joseph wept when they spoke unto him.

Can you imagine? Joseph’s heart broke as a result of that. He wept as a result. Listen to his words. And Joseph said, “Fear not. Am I in the place of God? You meant this for evil against me. God meant it for good to bring to pass as it is this day to save much people alive.”

What a man Joseph became, but it involved a process.  My friends, God is taking you through a process today. If you are not a Christian you should begin that process by placing your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the one who died to forgive your sins. And he would give you the opportunity to be forgiven and to be given the filling of the Holy Spirit and to live a Christian life for the glory of God and to spend eternity with him.

As we close this broadcast this morning, will you consider your life process and the place that God has in it and put your faith and trust in him? God bless you is our prayer.

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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13