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I want to welcome you today to the beginning of our Easter series, “HOPE IS ALIVE”. And to be honest, with you, it’s a series that I’m really excited about, because as we journey towards Easter, I believe all of us are going to experience the Hope of Easter in a new and fresh way.
However, as we begin our series today, I think it’s important to point out, that while Easter reminds us that Hope is Alive through Jesus, the truth is, living in that reality can be a challenge. And it’s a challenge for a couple of reasons:
First, it’s a challenge because like it or not, we live in a world where the problems, worries, and hardships of this life can leave us feeling hopeless at times. That’s true, right?
Maybe that’s where some of you find yourselves this morning. Maybe you feel:
Some hopelessness in your marriage this morning.
Leaving us feeling hopeless in our marriages.
Maybe some hoplessnes in your finances.
Possibly you feel some hopelessness when it comes to your kids, a work situation, or your maybe your health.
Hopeless when it comes to our health.
Or maybe you’re looking at unfilled dreams and
The fact is, because we live in a hopeless world, it’s easy to let hopelessness creep into almost any part of our life.
And hopelessness isn’t a fun feeling. In fact, it makes us feel sick. The writer of Proverbs puts like this:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick...” (ESV)
Proverbs 13:12 ESV
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs
The writer says lack of hope twists us up inside.
Maybe for some of you, right now your circumstances seem hopeless.
My prayer in the next few weeks this series changes that for you. My prayer is by the time we get to Easter, your hopelessness will have been replaced with a new hope.
A second reason we tend to live in hopelessness is because often times we put our hope in hopeless things.
For example:
We put our hope in people and relationships. And I’m not saying people are hopeless or relationships are a bad thing, but to often we think, “If I could just date that person, or if I was married to that person, or if that person was my friend”, then I’d find the hope I’ve been looking for.
Or we put our hope in our kids and their future. We think, “If they can accomplish what I never accomplished. Or if they can avoid the pitfalls that I fell into”, then I would find the hope I’ve been looking for.
Or we think, “If I could just make ‘x’ amount of $, or I could live in that house, or I could buy that car, or I could get that promotion”, then I would find the hope I’ve been looking for.
But the truth is, none of those things bring lasting hope. Yes, they might give you a temporary fix. Yes, they might scratch an itch. But eventually they all fall short. Why?
Or we think, “If I could l
Because sadly, people will fail you and let you down. No person can be your everything. And like it or not, you’ll never make enough money, live in a big enough house, or drive a nice enough car. It will never be enough to satisfy your fleshly desire.
You see, all those things will fall short because none of those things are lasting.
The Bible puts it like this:
1 John 2:16–17 ESV
16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:17 ESV
17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
John says the desires of the world will always fall short.
Maybe that’s where you find yourself today. Maybe you’ve been trying to find your hope in hopeless things. And if you’re honest with yourself today, you’re tired of hitting a dead end. You’re tired of getting your hopes up, only to discover that once again you’ve been sold on empty promises.
So, I don’t know where you are this morning, but the good news of Easter is that there is a hope worth putting your hope in. A hope that won’t fail you. A hope that is lasting. A hope that can be yours if you want it. A hope that is alive.
So, a good question might be, “If that’s true, then how do we live in that hope? How do we overcome what appear to be hopeless circumstances? How do we avoid the empty hope the world offers? How do we find true hope? A hope that is alive!”
Over the next few weeks leading up to Easter, that’s our focus as we begin our journey towards Easter today.
And I say journey, because as we learned last week, the promise of hope that God offers us involves a journey. A journey of growth and discovery. A journey that begins with a promise and continues through a life of faith. A journey that a man named Stephen is about to take us on.
If you’re new to MCF, it would be helpful for you to know that we practice a form of preaching called “Expository Preaching”.
What that means is we believe the Bible is best taught by taking books of the Bible and then studying them from beginning to end, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, in order to understand what God’s Word means in our lives today.
Currently we are doing that through the NT book of Acts. And right now we are at a pivotal moment in the book of Acts as a man named Stephen has been confronted and accosted by a religious group known as the Sadducees.
A group that doesn’t agree with or like Stephen’s message of hope in Jesus.
A group that is bent on silencing him no matter what.
And the fact is, while they won’t stop the message of the gospel, they will silence Stephen, because by the end of chapter 7 Stephen will be dead as he becomes the first Christian martyr in church history.
But before they take him out, Stephen has some final words. Words meant to take these religious leaders on a journey to Jesus. A journey that will recount God’s redemptive plan and hope for man’s salvation.
And as we saw last week, the plan began with a promise made in to a man named Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. And the promise was that through Abraham’s seed, one day God would provide a redeemer not only for Israel, but for mankind. A redeemer that would set us free from the bondage of sin and death. A redeemer you and I know as Jesus.
So, if you’re just joining us, that’s ok, because we are just starting the journey, and you’re just in time to join us.
So, in order to help us prepare for this journey, I want you to think of our journey towards Easter in four stages.
The first stage of the journey is called “Unplug”, we’re going to look at that stage today. The second is “Renew”, we’ll look at that next week. The third “Proclaim”, and on Easter Weekend the final stage is called “Rise”.
And what we’re going to discover is that the stages are connected and each represents a necessary part of our faith journey. Necessary if we want to obtain the promise of hope that God has given us.
So, to get us started and build some framework for where we are going, I want to begin our first stage by asking you a few questions concerning your current state of life. And the first question is this:
Question 1 - How many of you would say your life is full of busyness? And when I say busyness, I’m talking about a lack of free moments or time in your life.
For example, if somebody were to ask you to give them some of your time this week, would you find yourself saying, “You bet, I have an opening on my calendar”, or would you find yourself saying, “You know what, I’d love to, but my calendar is full.”
I think if we’re honest this morning, most of us would have to admit that our calendars are full.
Full of personal and social obligations.
Full of work responsibilities and obligations.
Full of kid’s and youth sporting events and activities.
And the list goes on.
In fact, it might surprise you to know the average parent and student athlete spend 5-6 hours a day focused on some kind of sport activity. And I don’t say that to say sports are bad. It’s just a fact in our culture.
All that to say, most of us have a full calendar each week. We are a busy people.
Question 2 -How many of you would say for the most part you have a comfortable life style. And when I say comfortable, I’m talking about comfort on a couple of different levels.
First, I’m talking about what we might call basic comforts. Comforts like daily access to food, clean water, clothing, housing, and a vehicle to get you from point A to point B. You know, those conveniences that we often take for granted as Americans. Comforts that many people in the world never experience.
Most of us do, right? For the most part as Americans we live in comfort.
But I’m also talking about comfort in the sense that we have access to all kinds of comforts. For example, most of us have access to smartphones, internet service, social media, Netflix, Hulu, Cable Television, Direct-tv, Spotify, Satellite Radio
But I’m also talking about comfort in the sense that we have access to all kinds of extra comforts.
For example, most of us have access to smartphones, internet service, social media, Netflix, Hulu, Cable Television, Direct-tv, Spotify, Satellite Radio, and the list goes on. Comforts and conveniences that allow us to entertain ourselves, inform ourselves, and endlessly communicate with one another.
Just to give you an example of what I’m talking about, a new study determined the average American looks at their smartphone screen 150 times a day and spends around 3 hours and 35 minutes a day enjoying the “comforts” it provides. Crazy, right?
All that to say, we are a people who live and are consumed by our comfort.
Final Question - When it comes to your busy schedule and multiple levels of comforts, where does God and His will for your life rank in all of that?
In other words, when it comes to your busy calendar, what portion of your week are you devoting to your relationship with Jesus? Where does He rank on your priority list?
When it comes to your comforts, where is God on your playlist? Where does He fit in the midst of your Netflix or Hulu marathons? How many times a day do you look to Him for direction and guidance? And what kind of screen time does he get on an average daily basis?
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, I’m not sure I like where you’re going with this. I feel like you’re about to drop some kind of hammer on me or step on my toes. Why are you asking these questions?”
I’m asking these questions, because what I’d like to suggest to you this morning, is that the greatest obstacle for our faith journey isn’t persecution, it isn’t a lack of access to Biblical material, and it’s not a lack of church options.
What I’d like to submit to you this morning, is that often the greatest obstacle for our faith journey is the misuse of our time and the abuse of our comforts.
It’s not the lack of church options. The fact is, there’s a church on almost every corner in America.
So, what are the greatest obstacles? What I’d like to submit to you is that the greatest obstacle for American Christianity is the use of our time and the over use and abuse of our comforts.
No, the greatest obstacle for American Christianity is the use of our time and the over use and abuse of our comforts.
That in our busyness and comfort focus, we’ve put our hope in the wrong things, and possibly lost sight of the journey that God wants to take us on.
How do I know that? Because as we come back to today, that’s exactly what Stephen seems to be implying as he begins our journey towards Easter with a young man named Joseph.
A young man who had put his hope in the wrong things. A young man who had to be unplugged from his comforts in order to get back on track.
And so, for the next few minutes, as we read about Joseph, what I’d like you to consider is that maybe, just maybe, our hope problem is a comfort problem.
That in our comfort focus, we’ve put our hope in the wrong things, and possibly lost sight of the true journey of hope that God wants to take us on. And that maybe in order to get back on track, like Joseph, we need to be unplugged as well.
So, picking up in verse 7, listen to what Stephen has to say about a young boy named Joseph:
Acts 7:9–16 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
In this passage Stephen moves from Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, to a young man named Joseph. And just to give us some context for who Joseph is, Joseph is one of 12 sons who was born to Jacob, who was the son of Issac, who was the son of Abraham.
So, what that means is after promising Abraham a son in , God made good on his promise too Abraham and provided him with a son, a son named Issac. And Issac had a son named Jacob. And Jacob had 12 sons, one of which was called Joseph. And from these 12 sons the nation of Israel would be born. Which is why Stephen refers to them as the patriarchs.
Everybody with me?
But before the nation can be born and enter the land that God promised Abraham, a journey must take place. And the journey begins with Joseph in an unexpected way. Notice what Stephen tells us, verse 9:
“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joesph, sold him into Egypt...” (ESV)
In this short verse, Stephen sums up a traumatic event that took place in young Joseph’s life as his brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery. An event, that as we’re going to see, unplugged him from his comfortable environment and put him on a path of faith, discovery, and growth.
So, to give us a greater understanding of what took place, we’re going to jump back to to the actual story and find out why Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.
In , verse 2, we read:
Genesis 37:2–4 ESV
2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
Genesis 37:2-
I don’t know about you, but from the git go, it’s easy to see why Joseph’s brothers might have had an issue with him.
Number one, Joseph is spoiled. He even has a special coat to prove it. The writer says while his brothers were wearing off brand coats from Walmart, Joseph is wearing a colorful new North Face jacket.
Based on that, it’s also probably safe to assume Joseph has access to the newest electronic gadgets. He’s probably got an iPhone X, a 50” Samsung LED TV in his room, and spends most of his day playing Fortnight on his PS4 or Xbox 1. Joseph has it made. Joseph is living the comfort dream.
Genesis 37:5-
Not only that, he’s a bit of tattle tale. He sees his brother’s doing something wrong, and he reports it to his father. Gotta love a brother like that.
And to make matters worse, Joseph isn’t afraid to flaunt his status and favor. Listen to what else the writer tells us:
Genesis 37:5–8 ESV
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Can you believe that. Not only is Joseph acting like a spoiled brat, but he’s having dreams about being a king. And for some reason he thinks it would be a good idea to tell his brothers about his dream. So he says, “Hey guys, I had this dream that we were working in the field, and your sheaves of grain stood up and bowed down to my sheave of grain.”
Kind of an odd dream. So, what did the dream mean? Well, apparently Joseph interpreted the dream for his brothers. We know it based on how his brothers responded. Listen to what the writer says next:
Genesis 37:
Genesis 37:26-
Acts 7:
Acts 7:9 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Stephen says despite
Genesis 41:6 ESV
6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind.
Genesis 41:46 ESV
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.
was brought before Pharoah navigate a soon coming famine. And would be given an opportunity to be used by God in the service of the Pharoah of Egypt. An opportunity that would sky rocket him to the second most powerful position in the land of Egypt. Which leads us to the second reason Stephen referenced this story:
Genesis 41:41–43 ESV
41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.
Acts 7:11-1
In reponse
In other words, what Stephen was trying to
Genesis 37:8 ESV
8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
Apparently Joseph told him his dream meant one day they would report to him. Not a great way to win points with your brothers.
Are you starting to get why Joseph’s brothers didn’t like him? In fact, it ran deeper than that. They actually hated him, to the point they wanted to kill him. Listen to what the writer tells us happens next as Joseph goes on an errand for his father:
Genesis 37:18–20 ESV
18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
It’s not looking good for little Joe, is it? Joseph is about to have his cushy little world rocked. So, what happens next? Do his brothers follow through and kill him? Not exactly, instead they come up with a more profitable plan. The writer says:
Genesis 37:26–28 ESV
26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.
The writer says, instead of killing him, they decide to make a profit off of him by selling him into slavery. That’s pretty cold, right?
And what’s even worse, if we were to read on, we’d learn that in order to cover up their actions, they took Joseph’s coat pretty coat, dipped it in animal blood, and told their father a wild beast had killed him and drug his body off. Pretty diabolical, right?
So, there you go, that’s how Joseph ended up getting sold into slavery in Egypt, and this is the story that Stephen is referencing as he speaks to the religious leaders.
So, a good question at this point might be, “Why is Stephen sharing this story? What is it he wants the religious leaders to see? How will this lead them to Jesus?”
Well, at this point, there are at least two reasons Stephen started with this story:
First, to remind the religious leaders that before the promise could come to pass, there had to be a time of preparation. A period of time where God would prepared a place for the nation of Israel to flourish and grow. And the place would be Egypt and the preparation would took place through the life of Joseph.
How do we know? We know because of the added detail that Stephen gives us for this story. Listen again to what Stephen says:
Acts 7:9 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Notice that Stephen says, despite being sold into slavery, that God was with Joseph. In other words, this hardship for Joseph was all a part of God’s promised plan of hope. A necessary component not only for Joseph’s growth and development, but for the nation of Israel as well.
And while we don’t have time to look at the entire story of Joseph, the next 13 years of Joseph’s life would be a roller coaster ride, as the majority of those years would be spent in a prison cell where Joseph would learn to depend on God in what seemed like a hopeless situation.
Because at this point, he’d lost everything. He’s lost his coat. He’s lost his pride. He’s lost his family. He’s lost his inheritance. He’s lost his comforts. Joseph has nothing. At this point he’s feeling exactly like some of you do this morning. He’s circumstances have left him feeling hopeless.
But here’s the good news, despite how Joseph may have felt, Stephen says God was with him. And whether he realizes it or not, his unfortunate circumstances are going to lead him to a God moment when God would give Joseph an opportunity to find hope. But for now he needs to be prepared. For now, he needs to learn to depend on God outside of his comforts.
You see, that’s what some of us need to come to terms with. That maybe just maybe what you see as a hopeless circumstance in your life is God’s way of preparing you for something greater.
Which leads us to the second reason Stephen tells this story. Because, in order for the promise to come to pass, God needed to put the nation in a position to receive it. And again, he did it through a man named Joseph. In , listen to how Stephen tells the story:
Acts 7:9–10 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.
Stephen says Joseph’s difficult circumstances put him in a position of favor. And it came pass believe it or not, through a dream. Because according to one night as the Pharoah of Egypt slept, he had a bad dream. A nightmare so vivid and bothersome, that Pharoah couldn’t sleep.
So through a set of circumstances, it was told Pharaoh there was a young man in prison who had a reputation of dreaming and interpreting dreams. Someone God had been preparing. Can you guess who that dreamer was? It was none other than Little Joe.
And so Joseph was summoned and brought before Pharoah. And in a God moment, Joseph supernaturally interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. And the interpretation was that a famine was about to come on the land that would last for 7 years. A famine so severe it had the potential to wipe the nation of Egypt off the map.
And as he stood there interpreting the dream Joseph laid out what you might call a “Famine Preparation Plan” for Pharoah. And after explaining how the plan would work, listen to how Pharoah responded. Verse 37:
Genesis 41:37–43 ESV
37 This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.
Pharaoh liked what he heard. So, in this God moment God placed Joseph in a position of great authority to prepare the nation of Egypt for the famine to come.
Pretty amazing, right? What’s more amazing though is, it wasn’t Egypt that the preparation was for. The preparation was for a man named Issac and his 11 sons. It was for the soon to be nation of Israel. How do we know? Because back in , as Stephen continues his speech, listen to what he says:
Acts 7:11–15 ESV
11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers,
What I want you to see is that the famine wasn’t just going to affect Egypt. It was going to affect the land of Canaan as well, the land where Joseph’s father and brothers lived. But God had been preparing a place for them to go during the famine. God had positioned Joseph in a place to help his family so when the famine came, the line of Abraham would be preserved so that the future promise could be fulfilled.
And now years later, Joseph’s brothers show up in Egypt, they are brought before their brother, and they bow. I bet they never thought they’d do that.
And the story ends as Joseph’s father and brothers move to Egypt where Joseph provides and takes care of them until his death, so that the nation of Israel can begin to flourish and grow as they continue their journey towards the promise.
And all of it was part of God’s plan. In fact, at the end of his life Joseph acknowledges this as he makes this statement to his brothers, the ones who had sold him into slavery:
Genesis 50:20 ESV
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
Joseph says, what you meant for evil, God meant for good.
But for the good to happen, Joseph had to be unplugged from his comfort. He had to be put in a place where he could be prepared. He had to be positioned in order to lead his family to safety so they could continue their journey towards the promise of God.
So, a good question at this point might be, “How does all of this apply to us?”
I’m glad you asked, because believe it or not, it applies in the same way.
Because the fact of the matter is, like Joseph, God has a plan and promise for us as well. A plan that leads to a promise of hope. A promise of salvation. A hope that comes through faith in Jesus. A hope that is alive.
But, in order to attain the promise of hope, like Joseph, we may need to be unplugged for it to happen. Why? So that God can prepare us and position us for the journey.
So, a good question might be, “How do we do that? And what does that look like?”
I’d like to suggest to ideas. In order to be prepared and positioned for your faith journey:
1. I must be willing to unplug from the false hope of this world.
For some of you, that’s your first step this morning as you stop putting your hope in false hope, and start putting your hope in the true hope that Jesus offers. And depending on where you are in your faith, that could work in a couple of different ways:
How do you do that?
You do it by making a faith commitment. A commitment that starts with you coming to the end of yourself and finally recognizing that this world has nothing to offer, but that God has everything to offer through what His Son Jesus did for you.
It starts with you surrendering your life to Jesus this morning. And all you have to do for that to happen is simply have a conversation with God that goes something like this:
For those of you that haven’t put your faith in Jesus, that’s where you need to start. The truth is, you’ve spent a life time trying to find hope and happiness in what the world offers. And if you’re honest with yourself, it’s always fallen short. Always left you wanting. Always left you disappointed. And maybe that’s why you are here today. Because maybe for the first time, you’re open to a new hope.
And here’s what that hope is. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus died on a cross, paid the price for your sin, and then rose again so you could have hope.
Jesus did what you can never do for yourself. He took care of your sin problem. The very thing that is destroying you. And in that resurrection moment, Jesus made a way for you to be restored into right relationship with God. Jesus gave us something to live for, not only in this life, but the life to come.
And today you can start a journey towards real and lasting hope. And all you have to do for that to happen is simply have a conversation with God that goes something like this:
Prayer Conversation - God, I’m done living for myself. God, I’m done putting my hope in a hopeless world. God, today I’m going to put my hope in what your son Jesus did for me. Today, I’m going to make Jesus Lord of my life. Today I’m giving my life fully and completely to you as I put my hope and my faith in Him.
If you’re ready to make that decision, that’s where the journey begins and where you can find true hope. But for it to happen, you have to unplug your heart from the world and give it to Jesus.
And here in a few moments, I’m going to give you the opportunity to act on that.
But there’s another group here. There are those who have already made a faith commitment. And that's great. But the truth is, you’re not living in that faith. You’re not living in that hope. And the reason you’re not is because you’re still holding on to the false hope the world offers. You’re still living with a temporal mindset.
But maybe you’ve already made that faith commitment. And that's great. But the truth is, you’re not living in that faith. You’re not living in that hope. And the reason you’re not is because you’re still holding on to the false hope the world offers. You’re still living with a temporal mindset.
You’re still trying to find hope in material possessions and what you can accumulate in this life. You think, “If I can just buy that house. If I can just drive that car. If I can just make “X” amount of dollars.”
Or, you’re still trying to find hope in a relationship that you think will fulfill you. You think, “If I was married to that person. If I could date that person.”
You’re still trying to find hope as you chase your lost and broken dreams through your kids lives and activities. You think, “If they can just achieve what I didn’t. If they can avoid that mistake I made.”
The truth is, you’re still still chasing worldly hope. And please hear me, I’m not saying you can’t make money. I’m not saying you can’t drive a nice vehicle or live in a nice home. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to lead your kids to a better life. What I’m saying though is, none of those things bring true lasting hope. But you chase them like they do.
And the result is, not only will you eventually hit a dead end, you’re going to miss out on the journey God has for you. Because as long as you’re chasing wordly hope, you’ll never be in a place where God can prepare you and position to experience all that God has for you.
Think of it like this. As long as you chase worldly hope, you’re going to like a Christian chicken with its head cut off. Running all over the place but never going anywhere in your faith.
I see a lot of Christians who live like that. They do a lot of running around, chasing worldly desires like a headless chicken, but never experiencing the life God truly wants them to have.
But that can change this morning. But it can only change if you decide to unplug from worldly hope and plug back into the true hope and plan God has for you.
Which leads us to the second thing you need to do. Because in order to be prepared and positioned for the journey:
2. I must be wiling to unplug from worldly comfort and distractions.
As I stated in the beginning of the message, like Joseph, we are a people of comfort. We are comfortable with our conveniences. Comfortable with our schedule. Comfortable with all those things we’ve been led to believe will bring hope, happiness, and fulfillment in our lives.
Because as I stated in the beginning of the message, like Joseph, we are a people of comfort. We are comfortable with our conveniences. Comfortable with our schedule. Comfortable with all those things we’ve been led to believe will bring hope, happiness, and fulfillment into our lives.
But I’m going to tell you right now, worldly comfort will keep you from the plan God has for you. And please hear me, it’s not that God doesn’t want you to be comfortable, but worldly comfort will never lead you to true hope and the promises that God has for you.
How do I know that? I know it because Jesus says so. Listen to what He says:
Mark 8:36 ESV
36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
Jesus says, “You can gain everything this world offers,
Jesus says, for the person who spend their life chasing worldly hope, it doesn’t end well.
You see, God didn’t just put you on this earth to accumulate temporal possessions, watch Netflix and Hulu, and play on your smartphone for almost 4 hours a day. No, God has bigger plans for you than that. God has a journey he wants you to go on. A journey that will lead you to true hope. A journey that ultimately leads to the fulfillment of all of His promises in your life now, and in the life to come. The prophet Jeremiah writes:
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
So, if that’s true, how does a person unplug from comfort?
, So, what will? And how do you get there?
I’m glad you asked, because I have some practical suggestions that I think apply to many of us:
Well
Because here’s the deal, God can’t prepare you for the journey if you’ve already decided you don’t need to go anywhere. Because that’s what comfort does. Comfort tends to keep us where we are at. Why? Because it’s comfortable.
Maybe for some of you, for a season, you need to unplug from social media and Facebook. And instead of spending endless hours taking selfies, telling people what you ate today, and reading about other peoples lives, maybe you need to get on your knees and start asking God about His plan for your life. Maybe you need to start giving God an opportunity to prepare you and position you to live for Him. But that won’t happen unless you’re willing too unplug.
Maybe for some of you, it’s time to unplug from Netflix and Hulu for a season. And instead of continually watching shows that fill your mind with worldly thinking, start spending time in God’s Word or reading a book that challenges your faith. Start giving God an opportunity to speak into your life as He prepares and positions you to live for His plan, not yours.
Maybe for some of you, it’s time to unplug from a relationship or friendship that is working against you. Maybe instead of finding identity in a worldly relationship, spend some time finding your identity in Christ as you spend time with him. Give God the opportunity to prepare and position you as you make Him the priority in your life.
And then for some, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your calendar and unplug from some activities. Maybe your kids don’t need to be in a sport 365 days a year for 5-6 hours a day. Maybe it’s time to put the basketball down for a season. Maybe it’s time to quit worrying about your kid getting ahead of other kids. Maybe it’s time to unplug from sports and plug your kids into youth group. Listen, I’m the father of a former college basketball player. So, I’m not against sports. But I can tell you right now, basketball never became our god.
So, maybe you need to take some time, look at your calendar, and ask this question, “Where does God fit into my busy week?” To ask, “Am I modeling to my kids that God is the priority in our family life?” And if you really want to test that, sit your kids down and ask them this question, “Hey kids, what do you think the most important thing in our life is?” Let their answer determine for you what needs to be unplugged.
Here’s the reality, if you’re not willing to unplug and make time for God, how could He ever prepare you or position you for the journey?
The answer is, He can’t.
Now, you might be thinking, “Ok pastor, I get what you’re saying. But what you’re asking is hard. It’s not comfortable. It goes against the flow. It changes my routine. It works against what I think is important. It’s going to cause me to have to change my schedule. I may even have to read a book.”
I know. It’s not going to be comfortable. But as long as you hold onto your comfort, God can’t prepare you or position you for the journey he has for you.
Let me share a personal example of how I know that:
Personal Example - Leaving Farm
After graduating from high school in 1991, from 1993-1999, I worked on our family farm. And to be honest, I enjoyed it, and Denise and I had a good life. We were comfortable.
But in 1999 God started stirring His plan for my life in my heart, and God asked me to unplug from our comfort and move to Springfield, MO where I would attend Bible College. And if I’m honest, it wasn’t comfortable move.
Because in order to provide for my family and attend school, from 2000-2003 I worked two jobs and averaged 3 hours sleep a night.
My day consisted of getting up at 2am to deliver newspapers. From there I went to class at 7am. And then after class I would jump in my car and rush across town to my full time job where I managed a Subway Sandwich shop.
Finally, I’d get home around 6pm, eat with the family, and then spend the next few hours studying before I finally went to bed around 11pm.
I did that for 3 years, and there was nothing comfortable about it. In fact, by the end of it, my eyes were yellow and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and I wanted to quit.
Now, you might be thinking, “Pastor, that sounds awful. Why would you do that? What was the purpose in all that? Why would God put you through that kind of discomfort?”
Well, while I didn’t fully see it at the time, during that time God was preparing me so He could position me.
Because in 2003 when I graduated from Bible College, out of the blue, I got a phone call from the pastor of one of the leading churches in our denomination. The church where I had been a volunteer donut boy and coffee server during college. A church to be honest, that I wasn’t qualified to work at.
So, why did he want to meet with me? Believe it or not, he wanted to offer me a job as the Adult Ministries Pastor position. Which meant, he wanted me to be one of his right hand pastors.
To be honest, I was shocked. So, sitting there stunned, I asked the question you shouldn’t ask somebody that has offered you a job. I asked, “Why? Why would you hire me?”
To be honest, I was shocked. So, sitting there stunned, I asked, “Why? Why would you hire me?”
He said, “Brad, to be honest, you don’t have the ministry experience I typically look for in a position like this. But I’ve watched you for the last three years. And not only have you served the church well as a volunteer, but from time to time I would eat lunch at Subway. And I would watch you work. I would watch how you handled your employees. I watched you make Sandwiches for people who made ridiculous requests. And I thought, that’s the kind of person I want working for me. Because if you can come and serve and lead for me the way you’ve served and led at your Subway, you’re the person I want.”
While I did’t see it at the time, God used Subway to prepare me and position me for his plan and promise in my life.
And as a result, for the next 7 years I was a part of one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. And as a result, I recieved some of the best training ministry can offer and had opportunities other pastors only dream of having.
Now fast forward to today, and here’s what I know now. All of that happened so God could prepare and position Denise and I for a future work. To be here in Marysville, KS at Marysville Christian Fellowship for this time. Because the fact is, everything I learned there, God has used to help us further God’s plan here.
Because the truth is, had I not thrown those papers, worked at that Subway, or made those donuts, I would have never been prepared or positioned not only for the church in Springfield, but to do the work God has called me to here.
But it all started with God unplugging me from my comfort in 1999, so he could prepare me and position me for His future plan and promise.
Listen, I don’t know what that looks like for you. But maybe it starts with something small. Maybe it start with unplugging from Facebook. Maybe it starts by unplugging from some busyness. Maybe it starts as you make a decision to unplug from some comfort so that God can prepare and position you for something that really matters. Something that’s not temporal, but eternal.
And so if you’re open to that, here’s my closing challenge for you. To simply pray this prayer:
“God where I have grown too comfortable? God what is keeping me from hearing your voice? God what needs to be unplugged in my life so that you can prepare and position me for the plan you have for me? God what needs to be unplugged in my life.”
I’m going to tell you right now, if you’ll pray that prayer, that’s a prayer God will respond to. Because He has great plans for you, and He wants to prepare you and position you. But first, He needs to unplug you. Again Jeremiah writes:
If you spend all your time pursuing your own personal dreams and desires versus God’s plan, guess what, you’re not going anywhere.
If the free time you do have is consumed with Netflix marathons, social media, games,
UNPLUG
UNPLUG
God wants to prepare and position you to be a refuge for others.
Acts 7:9–16 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
Acts 7:9-
Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Joseph is sold into slavery - Verse 9
Acts 7:9 ESV
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
What do you need to unplug from?
Joseph’s rescue and rise to power - Verse 10
Acts 7:10 ESV
10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.
Let’s Pray
Let’s Pray
The famine and Two Visits - Verses 11-13
Acts 7:11–13 ESV
11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh.
Jacob’s family arrives in Egypt - Verses 14-16
Acts 7:14–16 ESV
14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
Acts 7:
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