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Where Is God When Everything Goes Wrong?

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Genesis 39:1-23

David Riley

Liberty Baptist Church

August 22, 1999

 Gen 39:1-23


1          Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there.

2          And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.

3          Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and {how} the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.

4          So Joseph found favor in his sight, and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.

5          And it came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house, and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD'S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.

6          So he left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him {there} he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

7          And it came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, "Lie with me."

8          But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, with me {here,} my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.

9          "There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil, and sin against God?"

10        And it came about as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he did not listen to her to lie beside her, {or} be with her.

11        Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside.

12        And she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me!" And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.

13        When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and had fled outside,

14        she called to the men of her household, and said to them, "See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed.

15        "And it came about when he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled, and went outside."

16        So she left his garment beside her until his master came home.

17        Then she spoke to him with these words, "The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me;

18        and it happened as I raised my voice and screamed, that he left his garment beside me and fled outside."

19        Now it came about when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, "This is what your slave did to me," that his anger burned.

20        So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.

21        But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.

22        And the chief jailer committed to Joseph's charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible {for it.}

23        The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.





Have you ever had one of those days when everything that could go wrong did go wrong?  Have you ever had one of those days when the harder you try to do things right, the easier things seem to go wrong?


I read about a man who was filling out an accident report form for an insurance company, explaining how he had received the injuries that put him in the hospital.  He responded:


Dear Sir:


I want to explain in this letter the details of what put me in the hospital.  I am a bricklayer by trade.  On the day of my accident, I was working alone on the roof of a brand new six-story building.  When I completed my work, I discovered that I had about five hundred pounds of brick left over. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley that was attached to the side of the building at the top of the 6th floor.


Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel and loaded the brick into it.  Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the five hundred pounds of brick.  You will notice in block 11 of the Accident Report Form that I weigh 135 pounds.


Due to my surprise, at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope.  Needless to say, I proceeded in a rather rapid rate up the side of the building.


In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down.  This explains my broken arm and shattered collar bone.


Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent up the side of the building, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were too deep in the pulley.  This explains my two broken fingers.


Fortunately, by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain.  At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel.  Devoid the weight of the bricks the barrel now weighed approximately fifty pounds.


I refer you again to my weight of 135 pounds in block 11.  As you might imagine, I began a rapid decent down the side of the building.  In the vicinity of the 3rd floor, I met the barrel coming up.  This accounts for the two fractured ankles and the dislocation of my left kneecap. 


Slowed only slightly, I landed directly on the pile of bricks beneath me, and this explains the cracked three vertebrae in my  back.

Finally, as I lay there on the bricks in pain, unable to stand, and watching that empty barrel six stories above me, out of relief that it was over, I let go of the rope.  That explains the fractured skull.


Now even if you haven't ever experienced something quite as traumatic as that, you are going to have days, weeks, and months, maybe even years, when everything seems to go wrong.  This is true whether you know God, believe God, love God, serve God, or not. 


Joseph certainly had his share of days when everything went wrong.  Joseph had more than his share of dark days and rainy nights.  Chapter 39:20 we read,


Gen 39:20

20        So Joseph's master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king's prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.



Joseph had been put into a dark dirty dungeon with some of the roughest characters in all of Egypt; not for doing what was wrong, but because he did what was right.  He was there not because of his bad crime, but because of his good character.  For a large part of his life Joseph's tombstone could have read: "Nice guys finish last." 


Yet, through it all, Joseph remained "a nice guy."  Joseph remained completely devoted to God whether he was up on the mountaintop or down in the valley.  He knew how to handle adversity and prosperity. 


Peter Marshall once said,

"It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks.  In his efforts to get permanent possession of the soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks, and some of his special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else." 

Those words apply perfectly to Joseph.  We can learn from Joseph valuable lessons on how to make it when everything goes wrong.


































I.  Remember The Promises Of God


It is not coincidental that at the beginning of the entire narrative about Joseph, we read about his dream:

Gen 37:5-11

5          Then Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more.

6          And he said to them, "Please listen to this dream which I have had;

7          for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf rose up and also stood erect; and behold, your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf."

8          Then his brothers said to him, "Are you actually going to reign over us? Or are you really going to rule over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.

9          Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, "Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me."

10        And he related {it} to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?"

11        And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying {in mind.}



This dream was God's word to Joseph; God's promise for Joseph.  There was a dream about the sheaves, and there was a dream about the stars.  In the first dream, God told Joseph he was going to elevate him above the world's resources.  In the second dream, he would elevate him above the world's rulers.


Always in the back of his mind and in the bottom of his heart, there was that remembrance that God had promised him elevation and exaltation.  Joseph knew that no matter what happened, God would keep his word.  Rather than dwelling on his problems, he dwelt on His promises. 


When dark days and dreary nights come into your life, when everything is going wrong, instead of sinking on the premises you need to be standing on the promises.  I can hear Joseph now as he makes the pit and the prison his personal platform of praise, living in full confidence that God's promise for him would be fulfilled.  If the song had been written, I guarantee you Joseph would have been singing:


            Standing on the promises that cannot fail,

            When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,

            By the living word of God I shall prevail,

            Standing on the promises of God.


When Adonirim Judson, the great missionary to Burma, saw his missionary work destroyed, his presses mashed, his converts killed and scattered, and he himself in a filthy dungeon, his captors taunted him and said, "What does your future look like now, Judson?"  Judson answered, "My future is as bright as the promises of God!"

I could give you thousands of promises from the word of God for those times when everything seems to go wrong.  However, let me just give you one:


Prov 3:25-26

25        Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;

26        For the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught.



Men, many times, have to eat their words, but God never has to eat his.  He will keep his promises.

Phil 1:6

6          {For I am} confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.



Ps 37:5

5          Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.














 I.  Remember The Promises Of God

II.  Rely On The Providence Of God


Joseph was thrown into the pit and forsaken by his family.  Then he was thrown into prison and forgotten by his friends.  Neither time was Joseph being punished for doing what was wrong, but for doing what was right.  His brothers were jealous because of his dreams, and threw him into the pit.  Potiphar's wife was angry because of his dedication and had him thrown into prison.


Now you think about it, Joseph lost his liberty because he would not compromise his purity, corrupt his integrity, or cast away his dignity.  He was not suffering for doing wrong.  He was suffering for doing right.  I Pet. 2:20 reminds us,


1 Pet 2:20

20        For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer {for it} you patiently endure it, this {finds} favor with God.



Don't get the idea that when something bad happens to someone it's because they are not living right.  It may be because they are.


I heard about a preacher who returned home from a trip and one of his laymen met him at the train station.  The preacher asked him how things were going.  He said, "Well, while you were gone a tornado came through town and tore my house down."  The preacher said, "Well, I'm going to be honest with you.  That was God's punishment for the way you've been living."  Then the layman said, "Well preacher, it blew your house down too." 


Now I am sure that Joseph went through some deep perplexity. It's tough to have bad things happen to you because you are doing what is good.  It's tough to be a tither and lose your job.  It's tough when you live pure, stay clean, eat healthy, do right, and get cancer and die.  The fact of the matter is, there are going to be times when you cannot make sense out of sorrow; times when the arithmetic of life is not going to add up.  The hardest things in life to stand are the things you don't understand.


Life is not always going to make sense to you.  But there is a great truth to remember.  Just because things do not make sense to you, does not mean they don't make sense.  Because everything that happens to you makes sense to God. 


It has been said,

"In perplexities--when we cannot tell what to do, when we cannot understand what is going on around us--let us be calmed and steadied and made patient by the thought that what is hidden from us is not hidden from Him."


There are going to be times that faith is going to have to swim where reason cannot even wade.  Because God knows what He’s doing.  When all Joseph could see was the prison, God could see the palace.  That's why Joseph could say when it was all over,

Gen 50:20

20        "And as for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.



I want to give you two "prison promises" you need to remember the next time life deals you a bad hand; the next time everything seems to go wrong and you don't understand what is happening nor why.  The first promise is this:


Rom 8:28

28        And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.



Just as Jesus turned water into wine, God will take anything bad that happens to you and turn it into good. 


The other promise is Psalm 138:8,


Ps 138:8

8          The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Thy lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Thy hands.



The NIV translates this,


Ps 138:8

8          The LORD will fulfill [his purpose] for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever-- do not abandon the works of your hands.



You can rely on the providence of God.


George Washington, our first President, used to reminisce about a battle he was involved in during the French and Indian wars.  It was the Battle of the Monongahela, July 9, 1755.  In this battle the British forces were decimated; his commanding officer, General Braddock was killed.  This twenty-three year old colonel had two horses shot out from under him, and four musket balls passed completely through his coat.  For years, he wondered at the "luck" that kept him alive.


Fifteen years later, Washington and a friend of his were exploring wilderness territory up near the Ohio River.  They met a band of Indians who came to them with an interpreter.  The leader of the band was an old chief who wanted to speak with Washington.  This is what he said:


“I am a chief and ruler over my tribes.  My influence extends to the waters of the Great Lakes and to the far blue mountains.  I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on a day when the white man's blood, mixed with the streams of our forest, that I beheld this chief. I called my young men and said, 'Mark yon tall and daring warrior?  He is not of the red      coat tribe--he has an Indian's wisdom and his warriors fight as we

do--himself alone is exposed.  Quick let your aim be certain and he dies.' Our rifles were leveled, rifles which but for him knew not how to miss...'twas all in vain.  A power mightier far than we shielded him from harm.  He could not die in battle.  I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great counsel fire of my fathers in the land of shades. But before I go, there is something that bids me speak in the voice of prophecy: Listen!  THE GREAT SPIRIT protects that man and guides his destinies.  He will become the chief of nations and the people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire.” 



  I.  Remember The Promises Of God

 II.  Rely On The Providence Of God

III.  Rest In The Presence Of God


Not only was Joseph girded by the promises of God, and guided by the providence of God, he was guarded by the presence of God.  In chapter 39:2 we are told,


Gen 39:2

2          And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.


In v.3 we are told,


Gen 39:3

3          Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and {how} the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.



In verse 21 we are told,


Gen 39:21

21        But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.



In verse 23 we are told,


Gen 39:23

23        The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph's charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.



God was with Joseph the entire time.  Deep in the pit, down in the prison, God had not forgotten him and God had not forsaken him.


The whole time Joseph was in prison God was with him.  When Noah was navigating that ark through the flood, God was in the ark with him.  When those three Hebrew men were thrown into that fiery furnace, God got into the fire with them.  When Daniel was thrown into the lion's den, God shut the lion's mouth by getting into that den with him.  When the disciples were in that boat being tossed about on that stormy sea, Jesus got into the boat with them.


A child of God may get lonely, but it is impossible for him ever to be alone.  No matter how deep the water, you will not drown.  No matter how hot the furnace, you will not burn.  For God has promised,


Isa 43:2

2          "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.



FAMILY – Can desert you, actually harm you!!!!

FRIENDS – Can turn their back on you!!!!!!

PEOPLE YOU HAVE HELPED – Can forget you!!!

All of this happened to Joseph and it can happen to you and me!!!



  I.  Remember The Promises Of God

 II.  Rely On The Providence Of God

III.  Rest In The Presence Of God

IV.  Respond With The Patience Of God


Chapter 39:20 tells us that Joseph was put into the prison, and keep in mind that he was seventeen years old.  Chapter 41:46 tells us,


Gen 41:46

46        Now Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt.



Now when you put these two verses together Joseph had been in prison for thirteen years.  He was in prison because of jealous brothers, a lying woman, and an ungrateful butler.


But Joseph never got bitter, never held a grudge, and never took revenge.  When he became the Prime Minister of Egypt, he never mentioned his brothers who sold him into slavery.  He never said anything about Potiphar's wife who had him falsely thrown into prison.  He never uttered a word about the butler who forgot to get Joseph out of prison after Joseph had gotten him out of prison.


Joseph just kept on keeping on.  He just kept loving God and living for God.  He stayed by the stuff.  You see, Joseph's commitment was not contingent on his circumstances. 


Now the question for you is this: Is your commitment contingent on your circumstances?  Do you do right only when things are right?  To put it another way: What would it take for you to quit coming to church?  What would it take to make you stop praising God?  What would it take to cause you to quit living for Jesus?  You can tell the size of a Christian by what it takes to stop him.


If you had been in this story instead of Joseph, the story would not have lasted nearly as long, and it would have been filled with bitterness, revenge, and blood.  You would have long ago shaken your fist in the face of God, and said, "If this is the best you can do for me, forget it." 


There are certain questions that come to mind that ought to make all of us squirm.  Is your holiness dependent upon your health?  Is your joy dependent upon your job?  Is your praise dependent upon your prosperity?


Martin Luther said something that may not be earth shattering, but it says a lot about Martin Luther.  He said,

"Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my little apple tree and pay my debts." 

Do you understand what he was saying?  He was saying, no matter what happens tomorrow, I'm going to do right, be right, and live right.  True commitment is not conditional.  If a person will not serve God in a prison he is not fit to serve God in a palace.


Where is God when everything goes wrong?  There were some parents who lost their little boy in a tragic automobile accident.  They both were very bitter at God.  When the pastor came by to see them, the mother said, "Where was God when my son died?"  The pastor said, "The same place he was when His Son died." 


Where is God when everything goes wrong?  He's "on the throne, watching over His own."  When everything goes wrong He will work it out for His glory and for your good.

What do I do?

  I.  Remember The Promises Of God

 II.  Rely On The Providence Of God

III.  Rest In The Presence Of God

IV.  Respond With The Patience Of God

















You might say, “David, I have tried repeatedly to do that , but after a while I always fail.”  To live the life illustrated by Joseph takes supernatural power.  If you, I or anyone else tries to live this life in his own power, we are doomed to failure. 

The Christian life is a supernatural life.  The power to live that life comes from being born again.  It does not come from joining the church, being baptized, or turning over a new leaf.  As the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” 

How??? It is a decision of the will.  I recognize that I am a sinner, and I repent.  That is I turn from going my way and as an act of my will I choose to go God’s way. This is often expressed in a prayer.  If you have never asked to come into your heart, pray this prayer along with me.

“Lord Jesus I need You.  Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins.  I  open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord.  Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life.  Take control of the throne of my life.  Make me the kind of person you want me to be.”

Most of you have likely already accepted Christ, but we can climb back onto the throne, and retake control of our life.  That quenches the power of Holy Spirit in our lives.  This quenching is evidenced by (1) not trusting in the promises of God, (2) not relying on the providence of God, (3) not resting in the presence of God, and (4) not responding with the patience of God.

Sing a hymn of invitation Come accept Christ; or repent of the sin of retaking control of your life.

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