Faithlife Sermons

The Waiting Game - Genesis 40:1-41:1


©Copyright October 6, 2019 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche

Very few people like waiting in a waiting room. It's irritating to have a 2:00 p.m. appointment with a Doctor and not get in until 3:00 p.m. No one likes waiting during the 5th hour of what was supposed to be a 3-4 hour surgery. We don't like waiting in an emergency room . . . ever.

We don't like waiting in line, waiting for the light to change, or waiting for the person who is searching everywhere to give exact change to the checker at the grocery store while you are watching your ice cream melt. We don't even like waiting for the microwave to cook our dinner.

However, these are not the most difficult waiting rooms we might find ourselves in. Sometimes we are in God's waiting room.

The couple who wants to have a child, but months turn into years of disappointment.

A single person longs for someone to love, but there is no interest

Someone is laid off from work and applies for scores of jobs, but no responses

A disease nags or treatments seem to go on endlessly even though you pray fervently for healing.

Persecution dogs your family and won't let up, even though you continue to trust.

You are ready and even want to die, but you linger

You pray for a spouse or child to come to faith, but the wall of resistance seems impenetrable.

When we last met Joseph he was working for the Egyptian official, Potiphar. Things were going well until Mrs. Potiphar propositioned Joseph. Joseph was a man of integrity and refused to violate God's law and the trust of his boss, Potiphar. Mrs. Potiphar did not like being denied and charged Joseph with attempted rape. This landed Joseph in prison for something he didn't do.

In spite of all of this, Joseph continued to serve the Lord and rose in the ranks among the prisoners until he was the inmate in charge.

You may wonder how old Joseph is now. Genesis 37:2 tells us Joseph was only 17 when he was sold to the travelers. Genesis 41:46 says Joseph was 30 when he took over in Egypt. Chapter 4 tells us Joseph had to wait 2 years after the event of this chapter to plead his case to Pharaoh. This means during the events before us he was right around 28-years-old. That would mean Joseph had been separated and sold for all or part of eleven years! That is a very long time to be in the waiting room.

Joseph has ridden somewhat of a roller coaster. Every time there was some kind of change Joseph likely had a glimmer of hope. Maybe He thought this was going to be God's way of rescuing him from this mess. He was disappointed every time. I suspect you understand how hard it is to keep waiting when there just seems to be more and more bad news.

Joseph gave his best to his time in prison. When two high ranking officials angered Pharaoh, they were sent to prison. The Cupbearer had the responsibility of securing, and most likely tasting, the wine that was placed in the hands of the Pharaoh. It was his job to make sure Pharaoh was protected from those who might want to poison him. Often these cupbearers became confidants of the King.

The baker was also close to Pharaoh. It was his job to provide and protect the food supply. He too may have had a close relationship with the Pharaoh. The offense these two may have committed may have been as simple as serving a poor meal to the King.

We don't know what they did . . . we do know what they dreamed one night in prison. The cupbearer dreamt of a very full and fruitful grape vine made up of three branches. He took the grapes, made them into wine, and gave them to the King.

The baker dreamt he had three baskets of pastries on his head and the birds were nibbling on the pastries in the top basket. Both men were confused and troubled by their dreams.

We learn something about Joseph and his dealing with others. See if you can pick up a key phrase,

When Joseph saw them the next morning, he noticed that they both looked upset. 7“Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them.

8And they replied, “We both had dreams last night, but no one can tell us what they mean.”

“Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” Joseph replied. “Go ahead and tell me your dreams." (6-8)

Joseph was paying attention. He noticed these men and recognized they were upset. Before we can be used by God in the lives of other people, we have to pay attention to those around us. Perhaps this is one of the secrets to the positive attitude of Joseph. He could have turned inward and only thought about the struggle he himself was having. Instead, he looked at others and sought to bring help to the troubled. People say this is one of the keys to surviving the waiting room . . . stop focusing all your attention on yourself and look for ways to serve others.

Joseph attributed his ability to understand dreams to the Lord. I suspect he knew when he heard the dream that this was not some random crazy dream like we often have. Instead, he believed it was a message from the Lord.

All throughout the Bible God communicated with people through dreams. That doesn't mean every dream is filled with meaning. In fact, most probably are not. However, sometimes this is God's way of leading His people. There are many amazing stories of Muslims who have been led to faith in Christ by a dream.

Joseph was enlightened by the Lord and told the cup-bearer his dream meant he was going to get his job back in three days. He asked the cup-bearer to remember him when he this happened. As a person with access to the Pharaoh, Joseph hoped he might have some influence on Joseph's release from prison.

The baker was listening to the exchange and decided he would like good news also. Joseph told this Baker that his dream also told what was going to happen in three days. Unfortunately, his head was not going to be raised up into the position he once had, his head would be raised up to be executed. In three days, both interpretations proved to be true.

When the cup-bearer was restored, he forgot his promise to Joseph. Joseph would be in the waiting room for another two years!

No matter who you are, you will spend some time in a waiting room. How you respond to this time will be the difference between a stronger faith or an eroding faith; a powerful witness or a watered-down witness.

We Choose How We Respond to Our Circumstances

As humans, we claim we cannot help the way we feel. Most of us do not believe we choose to be angry, anxious, discouraged, defeated, or depressed. Some people are more genetically predisposed to some of these emotions but most of us choose to respond the way we do. We do so, without even thinking about it. Joseph shows us we choose our attitude. In fact, if we want to be fruitful believers, we MUST choose our attitude.

Our emotions are generally a result of the message we send to our brain. For example:

If I tell myself God has forgotten me in my circumstances, I will respond much differently than if I tell myself God is leading me or preparing me, through my circumstances.

If I tell myself the delays in my life are because of inconsiderate and selfish people, or because God is powerless to help me, I will respond much differently than if I said, "God's timing is perfect" (and believe it).

If I believe God is in control over all things, I will respond differently than if I believe the world is out of control and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

We send ourselves messages constantly. How we respond in life is largely in response to what we tell ourselves. If we want to be spiritually healthy we must constantly tell ourselves that we trust God's timing more than ours; that His way is better than our way; and we need to wait for as long as it takes for God's perfect timing.

Essential Truths for the Waiting Room

John Ortberg identifies two essential requirements to maintaining the right attitude in the waiting rooms of life.

Patient Trust Joseph did not understand why He was being treated the way he was, but He trusted there was a purpose in it all.

We are not very good at either the patient or the trust. We want what we want when we want it. As a result, at times we try to "make things happen" and force the issue. God's timing is everything. Throughout the course of the life, Jesus often said, "My time has not yet come." He waited for the right time.

Instead of trusting, we get angry, discouraged, depressed, anxious. Sometimes we just simply give up rather than patiently wait for God's timing and wisdom. We are restless instead of resting in the knowledge that God knows what He is doing. He is God and we are not.

Henri Nouwen wrote about the special relationship that must exist with trapeze artists between the flyer and the catcher. As the flyer is swinging high above the crowd, the moment comes when he lets go of the trapeze, then arcs out into the air. For that moment, the flyer is suspended in nothingness. It is too late to reach back for the trapeze. There is no going back now. However, it is also too soon to be grasped by the one who is doing the catching. The flyer can only be as still and as motionless as possible and wait.

Trapeze artists warn: the flyer must never try to catch the catcher! His job is to not flail about in anxiety. . . but to simply wait for the well-trained hands to grab him. (Ortberg, Walk on Water, 182)

This is a good picture of what it means to trust the sovereignty of God. We wait.

to see if the treatment will bring a cure

to see if that special someone will finally come along

to find the job that will provide for our family

to get through the time of darkness and finally see the light once again

to see what God will do with the seemingly random pieces of our lives

Waiting is not the same thing as being passive. We still need to do our part (seek treatment, apply for jobs, spend time with people). We do so with our eyes looking for His leading and wisdom.

Second, we need Confident Humility. We must be both confident in God's ability to bring meaning out of chaos and good out of pain. At the same time, we must recognize our own limits.

We don't see the whole picture

We don't understand all the variables

We have no idea what God is training us for or the position He is putting us in

We don't know what "the right timing is"

We trust His wisdom. His power. His plan. And while we wait, our job is to keep doing what is right. We are to honor the Lord right where we are as we wait. This is exactly what we see Joseph doing. Do what you know is right, and then wait.

Ortberg writes,

There was one experience Jesus never had. He had experienced virtually every human emotion -- sorrow, joy, pain. He had been tired, angry, hopeful. But there is one thing he never experienced: He was never frantic. He never panicked. And in that moment I realized that God is never desperate.

God's voice is never frantic. When you hear desperate thoughts, you can know it is not God speaking. You can wait in confident humility. (184)

This is what we see in the Bible,

Job said,

“But he knows where I am going.

And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.

11For I have stayed on God’s paths;

I have followed his ways and not turned aside.

12I have not departed from his commands,

but have treasured his words more than daily food.

13But once he has made his decision, who can change his mind?

Whatever he wants to do, he does.

14So he will do to me whatever he has planned.

He controls my destiny. (Job 23:10-14)

Isaiah said,

29He gives power to the weak

and strength to the powerless.

30Even youths will become weak and tired,

and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.

They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

Paul wrote,

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36(As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

These are texts for the waiting room. I don't know what you are waiting for: a restored relationship, a health crisis to finally resolve, forgiveness to come from someone you hurt, or maybe you are just waiting out a stormy time in your life when God seems far away. But even when you can't feel Him . . . His fingerprints are everywhere. I love this old poem,

My Father's way may twist and turn,

My heart may throb and ache.

But in my soul I'm glad I know

He maketh no mistake

My cherished plans may go astray,

My hopes may fade away,

but still I'll trust my Lord to lead,

For He doth know the way.

Though night be dark and it may seem

That day will never break,

I'll pin my faith, my all in Him,

He maketh no mistake.

There's so much now I cannot see,

My eyesight's far too dim;

But come what may, I'll surely trust

And leave it all to Him

For by and by the mist will lift

And plain it all He'll make;

Through all the way, though dark to me,

He made not one mistake

-A.M Overton

The waiting room is never fun, but it is not necessarily a bad place. When we have the right attitude, the waiting room can be a classroom that teaches us how to grow in our faith. It can be a doorway to intimacy with God on a deep and personal level. And sometimes, like Joseph, the waiting room is a prelude to an adventure with God we could have never anticipated. Though we don’t know what is ahead, God does. We can continue to live confidently rather than sit in a dark room wringing our hands. Joseph shows us that waiting is living with faithful anticipation, eager to find out where the next door will lead. He is faithful. And the next time you are stuck waiting . . . look around. God may just have something He wants you to do, or someone He wants you to talk to. Or maybe, he might even want you to just slow down and rest in Him.

©Copyright October 6, 2019 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche

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