Faithlife Sermons

Handling the Hard-knocks of Life

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Genesis 37:2–4 NLT
2 This is the account of Jacob and his family. When Joseph was seventeen years old, he often tended his father’s flocks. He worked for his half brothers, the sons of his father’s wives Bilhah and Zilpah. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things his brothers were doing. 3 Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. 4 But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him.
Genesis 37:28 NLT
28 So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, can I really make a difference? The story of Joseph answers that question with an emphatic yes!
The story of Joseph begins when he is only 17 years of age. That’s the same age as some of you here today. God began to reveal to Joseph, in veiled ways, that he had a special plan for Joseph’s life. The skepticism of his family would ultimately be shown to be incorrect. For ultimately Joseph would be elevated to the position of second in command in the land of Egypt.
The ultimate goal took many years to accomplish. But along the way, the Lord took Joseph through the school of hard knocks. God has plans for your life. Just like with Joseph, the road may contain many potholes and hard knocks. If you follow the pathway that Joseph chose, God will do amazing things in and through you.
There are four principles that I want to share with you this morning that will open the door for God to do amazing things in and through your life. I hope that you will jot these principles down and commit them to memory. When life does not seem to be going your way and you encounter one obstacle after another, I pray that God will remind you of these principles.

1. Hard knocks don’t have to destroy you.

Genesis 39:1–3 NLT
1 When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. 3 Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.
A- Joseph understood what it means to endure life’s hard knocks.
Joseph was betrayed by his own family.
Joseph was sold into slavery in a land where he knew no one.
Joseph was falsely accused of attempted rape and put in an Egyptian prison.
Joseph was forgotten by those that he provided help to imprison.
In spite of all of these extreme obstacles, Joseph did not allow the hard knocks to destroy him.

2. The key to successfully handling life’s hard knocks is to develop your relationship with Christ.

Genesis 39:19–21 NLT
19 Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. 20 So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden.
A- Joseph discovered and drew close to a faithful friend while enduring great difficulties in his life.
1- Genesis 39:21 gives us the key to how Joseph endured these trials.
a. The text says “but God was with Joseph in prison and showed him his faithful love.”
“Faithful Love”(vs. 21) Translates the Hebrew word, checed (חֶסֶד, 2617), “loving-kindness; steadfast love; grace; mercy; faithfulness; goodness; devotion.” This word is used 240 times in the Old Testament, and is especially frequent in the Psalter. The term is one of the most important in the vocabulary of Old Testament theology and ethics.
The Septuagint nearly always renders checed with eleos (“mercy”), and that usage is reflected in the New Testament. Modern translations, in contrast, generally prefer renditions close to the word “grace.” kjv usually has “mercy,” although “loving-kindness” (following Coverdale), “favor,” and other translations also occur. rsv generally prefers “steadfast love.” niv often offers simply “love.”
In general, one may identify three basic meanings of the word, which always interact: “strength,” “steadfastness,” and “love.” Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness. “Love” by itself easily becomes sentimentalized or universalized apart from the covenant. Yet “strength” or “steadfastness” suggests only the fulfillment of a legal or other obligation.
The word refers primarily to mutual and reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties of a relationship (especially Yahweh and Israel). But checed is not only a matter of obligation; it is also of generosity. It is not only a matter of loyalty, but also of mercy. The weaker party seeks the protection and blessing of the patron and protector, but he may not lay absolute claim to it. The stronger party remains committed to his promise, but retains his freedom, especially with regard to the manner in which he will implement those promises. Checed implies personal involvement and commitment in a relationship beyond the rule of law.
b. In essence, this passage tells us that Joseph engaged in a personal relationship with the living God.
2- The key to going through life’s hard knocks is to remain focused on the pursuit of an personal, intimate relationship with God.

3. You must remain consistent in your pursuit of a relationship with the Lord in all circumstances.

Genesis 41:37–43 NLT
37 Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.” 41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh removed his signet ring from his hand and placed it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in fine linen clothing and hung a gold chain around his neck. 43 Then he had Joseph ride in the chariot reserved for his second-in-command. And wherever Joseph went, the command was shouted, “Kneel down!” So Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of all Egypt.
A- Joseph came to understand that the most important thing that he could do in all circumstances (good or bad) is to remain committed to a growing relationship with his God.
1- He committed himself to pursuing his relationship with the Lord even after his circumstances changed.
a. To forsake following God and begin to rely on self when things are going well is to court disaster.
b. It is important to realize that the only one who can control our circumstances and provide guidance for our lives is the Lord.

4. Stay focused on the fact that God is directing your life for His purposes. (vs. 20).

Genesis 50:19–21 NLT
19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.
A- Joseph understood that God had directed his life in the good times and the bad times.
1- In Genesis 50:20, Joseph vocalizes the principle that had guided his life to this point.
a. While his brothers definitely intended to harm him in their betrayal, God had a good plan for Joseph’s life.
2- It is important to remember that people will sometimes try to harm you and the circumstances of life will not always be positive.
a. In spite of our circumstances, God will always accomplish his will for our lives. God is in charge, not man.
At this time in your life, you’re making many decisions that will affect the rest of your life. I believe that God has an amazing plan for each one of you. In the process of that plan working out in your life, there will inevitably be obstacles, potholes and hard knocks. I want to encourage you to keep these four principles in mind and use them to guide your decisions.
Hard knocks don’t have to destroy you.
2. The key to successfully handling life’s hard knocks is to develop your relationship with Christ.
3. You must remain consistent in your pursuit of a relationship with the Lord in all circumstances.
4. Stay focused on the fact that God is directing your life for His purposes. (vs. 20).
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