Faithlife Sermons

Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness

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Intro: Me/We

8 Minutes and 45 seconds. What can you do in 8 minutes and 45 seconds? In 8 minutes and 45 seconds, I can make a cup of coffee with my Aeropress. In 8 minutes and 45 seconds, I can get ready for the day, and leave my home. In 8 minutes and 45 seconds I can call my parents or a friend. 8 minutes and 45 seconds was the amount of time a white male police officer had his knee jammed into the throat of George Floyd, another innocent black man whose life was taken.
But the fruit of the spirit is love, but the fruit of the spirit is joy, but the fruit of the spirit is peace, but the fruit of the spirit is patience, but fruit of the spirit is kindness, but the fruit of the spirit goodness, but the fruit of the spirit is faithfulness, but the fruit of the spirit is gentleness, but the fruit of the spirit is self-control.
This is the word of God.
I’m gonna be honest church, it was hard for me to prepare a message on faithfulness for this morning. Like many of you, I’ve seen the news this week. And not just this week, but the past FIVE MONTHS. Our entire world seems to be getting worse and worse and worse, and there’s sickness, and death, and murder, and injustice and racism permeating every sphere of our lives. And where is God? Where is our heavenly father in all of this? Why does our heavenly father seems so silent? So distant? So far away from our suffering and hurting and brokenness?
And in thinking about all of this, I was lead to the story of Joseph. A story of slavery, a story of injustice, a story of God’s silence, a story of loneliness, a story of desperation, a story of darkness, a story of waiting. But ultimately it’s a story of God’s faithfulness and restoration. It’s a story of God working in what looks like God’s absence. And it’s the story of Joseph staying faithful, even in his desperation, staying faithful to God and knowing that he’s with him. Church, God is with us. And I even still say that with a hesitance, because it’s hard to have faith that God is with us. But the fruit of the spirit, the fruit of what’s ours in Christ, is faithfulness. So, let’s look briefly at Joseph’s story, and let’s try and see the faithfulness of God to Joseph and the faithfulness of Joseph to God.

God

Our story starts a little bit before this with Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation that would bless the entire world. And years go by, and Abraham and his wife, Sarah don’t have any children. But keeps telling Abraham he’s going to make him to a great nation. And finally, after years and years and years of waiting and wondering, and praying, Sarah Finally gets pregnant and they have a son named Issac. And more years go by, and Issac has a son named Jacob. And then more years go by and Jacob has 12 sons. Finally this is starting to look like there might be a nation after all.
Now Jacob had a favorite wife named Rachel, and I say favorite wife because he had more than one wife, and from his favorite wife he had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin, but after Benjamin was born Rachel died in childbirth. And so Jacob is constantly mourning the loss of his favorite wife and consequently Joseph became his favorite son.
Benjamin’s too young to be a part of this story, but Joseph had ten older brothers and they hated Joseph because he was daddy’s favorite.. Jacob loved him more than the rest.
And one day, Jacob says to Joseph I want you to go and check on your brothers, which Joseph hated to do and the brothers hated it even more, and so Joseph shows up, and they see him coming and they say, “you know what, we’ve had enough of this guy.” So they take Joseph, the take his robe, this special rob his father had made for him, and they throw him in a pit.
And they decide to kill him, but before they kill him they say, let’s have lunch. And the text says “As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead.” Gen. 37:25
Judah said to his brothers, What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 26
Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.”
So they pull him out of the pit, and he terrified, and he sees these strangers talking with his brothers, and a few minutes go by and he’s sold into slavery.
And the text continues, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt.” Potiphar, and Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 39:1
And then the strangest part of the story, it’s repeated throughout, in the midst of all this Chaos, the author tells us, “And the Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered.” And we think “no, if the Lord was with Joseph, Joseph would have gotten captured, Joseph wouldn’t have been sold and bought. Joseph would be home and the ten brothers would be the one’s suffering.
But, Potiphar, the man who bought Joseph, notices Joseph is a talented person, and after a few years, Joseph is managing Potiphar’s household. But Potiphar isn’t the only one to notice Joseph, potiphar’s wife also notices Joseph, and one day she comes to him and says “Slave, bec. Joseph was a slave, Slave I need you to come with me. I want you to sleep with me.” And she’s not asking, she’s commanding, she owns Joseph. And Joseph’s response is so amazing, he says “your husband has put everything under my control except for you, so how can I do this? And then he says “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?39:9
And this goes on and on and, day after day, and finally She’s had enough, and so she accuses Joseph of trying to rape her. 11 Now one day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants were there.[f] 12 She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and ran outside. 13 When she saw that he had left his garment with her and had run outside, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “my husband brought a Hebrew man to make fools of us. He came to me so he could sleep with me, and I screamed as loud as I could. 15 When he heard me screaming for help,[g] he left his garment beside me and ran outside.”
And now Potiphar is left with no choice, so he throws Joseph in prison. “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined” 39:20
A wrongful accusation by someone in a position of power lead to the imprisonment of Joseph.
And then again, the author brings us back to this theme But, while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him;” Again, we’re like “no, no, no, if the Lord was with him, she’d be in prison not Joseph. Aren’t good things supposed to happen to Good people and bad things to bad people? And if you’re faithful, isn’t it all supposed to work out?
And the text continues, He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” 39:20-22
And eventually, Joseph becomes sort of the admin assistant of the whole prison. And as the story goes, Pharaoh’s butler and Pharaoh’s baker upset Pharaoh and are thrown into prison, and of course they meet Joseph. And time goes by, years go by, and one day they wake up, they talking whispering franticly with each other, and Joseph sees this and is like “hey’ what’s goin on. Are y’all okay? And they both say, well we’ve had dreams and the’s dreams were so vivid and real and we don’t know what they mean. And Joseph says I’ve interpreted dreams before, tell me about them and maybe I can help you out.
So the butler tells his dream first, and Joseph listens to the dream and says “I’ve got some good news, in three days it’s Pharaoh’s birthday. And on Pharaoh’s birthday he’s going to life up your head and restore you as his personal butler. But, when you’re free, tell them abut me! I’ve been kidnapped, I’ve done nothing wrong, I’ve been in here for years, when you’re free tell them about me!
The baker hears this positive interpretation, and so he tells his dream, and Joseph is says “In three days Pharaoh is going to life up your head, then dramatic pause, off of your body! and hang you on a tree.
Three days go by, and all of this happens. The butler is restored to his position. And imagine if you can that you’re joseph. A day goes by, and Joseph is thinking maybe today’s the day, the bakers going to tell someone on the outside about me. More days go by, a week goes by, a month goes by, and the text tells us the butler forgot all about Joseph. And for some us, that might be your story. You just feel forgotten. Feel forgotten by God, feel forgotten by friends, feel forgotten by family. And years go by. For many of our black brothers and sisters, for many in other communities, they feel forgotten. They feel not seen, not heard, not understood. Their pain, their suffering is forgotten, or ignored.
And years go by, Joseph is sitting in a prison cell, maybe thinking this is just his lot in life. But he remembers the stories he heard growing up of God’s faithfulness to his great-grandfather Abraham, Gods faithfulness to his grandfather Issac, God’s faithfulness to his father Jacob, and he knows, even when he doesn’t feel it, maybe even when he’s doubting it, that God is with him, and he stays faithful. God is with us, God is with the hurting, God is with the marginalized in our society.
As the rest of the story goes, Pharaoh has a dream, and no one can interpret this dream. And ahh, it clicks, the butler remembers that there’s this Hebrew man in their dungeon that can interpret dreams. So they go and get Joseph, Joseph cleans himself up, and is placed in front of Pharaoh.
And Joseph tells Pharaoh that his dreams are about events that are getting ready to happen. He says “Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in the land of Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so sever. … And God will do it soon.
And then he tells Pharaoh what must be done to make sure the nation of Egypt doesn’t descend into chaos.
33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God[a]?”
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
So Joseph is essentially elevated to the position of Prime Minister of the nation of Egypt.
And all of this happens, 7 years of prosperity go by, and then then the seven years of famine hit. And it hits hard. Not just Egypt, but all of the nations in this part of the world are suffering, including Israel, Jacob’s family.
When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” In other words, guys, we are starving. This famine is overwhelming us. Get up and do something about it. He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”
And so the brothers travel down to Egypt, Joseph is in charge of the country, and they get there, and Joseph recognizes them immediately, but they don’t recognize him. They haven’t seen him since he was a 17 year old teenage boy. For all they know, he’s dead. Joseph sees them, and the text says, “he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them.” And then he starts to question them. Who are you? Where are you from? And then he accuses them of being spies! And so to prove they aren’t spies he keeps one of the brothers with him and sends everyone else home to get the youngest brother. So they take off, and months go by because of the long journey, and finally they get back to Egypt, they’re placed in a room with Joseph and all of the guards, and the text says:
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it. And the brothers have to be thinking, What is going on? Who is this guy, why is he giving us so much attention, and why is he crying?
Oh no. We’re in trouble now for sure.
Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. The were convinces, this is payback, we did an evil thing, and now Joseph is going to have us killed. But Joseph shows them mercy and kindness and tells them to go home, get dad, get your families, I’m going to take care of you here in Egypt.
And so the brothers return home again, months and months of journeying back and forth, the get their families and their father, and they live in Egypt. There’s this huge family reunion, I imagine there’s a lot of questions, catching up, Joseph is meeting all of his nieces and nephews for the first time, and then years go by, and Jacob dies, and the brothers freak out, and they tell Joseph that their father left a message for him asking him to forgive his brothers. Joseph reads the message and then weeps. And the text says:
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

You

Now, there’s no way Joseph could say these words unless he knew and believed and was confident that God was faithful to him in his darkest circumstances, and there’s no way he could say these words if in the darkest circumstances of his life he was unfaithful.
Joseph could have sat in the prison cell and cursed God, he could have sat there and despaired, he could have sat there and been convinced that God is not good, God is not faithful, and God is not working. But, the story says over and over and over again that God was with him. And Joseph new this, and Joseph’s faith, over a long period of time, Joseph’s confidence that God was with him and was working, his faith in the God who works all things for good lead to the restoration of his entire family. He responded, I think, to the evil his brothers did out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We can sit and watch the news, watch society crumble, and we can curse God and be convinced that God isn’t good, God isn’t present, God isn’t faithful. We have that freedom. We have that option. Or, we can, through the Spirit of God that is in all Jesus follower’s have faith that God is working.
And how does God work? God works through people who are faithful to him, people who are walking in the fruit of the Spirit. God works through the body of Christ, God works through the Church of Jesus Christ, God works through one body of believers who are faithful to him and are faithful to each other. God works through us, as faithful members of SJKUMC, and pushes us to listen and respond to the hurts in our own families, our church family, and to the hurts of our neighbors near and far. To the hurts of other communities in New England, in our nation and in our world. Because the world needs faithful people, the world needs people who are faithful to God, our Heavenly father, people who are faithful to one another, the world needs faithful Jesus followers in this fight against injustices in our society.
This means we need to have hard conversations. I’ve been convicted these past few months, and so maybe a lot of my personal conviction is coming out in this sermon, but I’ve been convicted personally that I’ve just been too complacent, too silent. I’ve been too silent out of fear of maybe saying some wrong things, or of maybe being tone deaf and offensive, and I’ve allowed that fear to keep myself subtly from speaking up and speaking out against injustice. So, my commitment as a human, as a citizen of heaven, my commitment as a faithful Jesus follower is to further educate myself on the history and issues of injustice in our country. To listen, to really listen to the issues and hurts of communities that are hurting. To in a sense take on the hurts of others. Because, as the body of Christ, one groups issues are all of our issues. Your hurts are my hurts, as a pastor, but especially as a brother in Christ, the hurts that you deal with, are my hurts too, because we’re one body, and because I love you and because I care about you, I hurt and I weep and I fight with you. And my hurts are your hurts, and other communities hurts are our hurts.
Our response as a church, as a body of believers living out our faithfulness to God, might be more education, or maybe it’s listening to a perspective different than our own, talking to brothers and sisters of different cultures about their experiences. But I’m convinced of this. Just like God was with Joseph, God is with us. God is still moving, and God is still faithful to his people and is calling us to a deeper faithfulness to him, which is ours in the Spirit. And through faithful people, through a faithful church, through a faithful body working together, God will move in us, and will move in our society.
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