Genesis 45:8 & 50:20 Suffering: God's Sovereignty & Our Theology

Genesis 45:8 & 50:20   Suffering: God’s Sovereignty & Our Theology      WC McCarter
Is God out of control? Is there anything outside of God’s authority and power? Can you trust a God who is out of control? Is there ever an event that takes place that God is too weak to do anything about it?
Let’s define the terms of my title this morning before we go any farther. Sovereignty is God’s absolute right, power, and intention to govern all things according to the counsel of His will. It is  His decisive self-reliance and self-determination. Humans do not have this ultimately. We have the right and authority to make decisions and do this to a certain degree, but ultimately we cannot control everything. If we could, we would solve all of the world’s problems and move on. God’s sovereignty includes his authority and power over sin and evil.
Theology is the study of God. It is our understanding of God. Every Christian is a theologian to some extent. You enjoy talking about God, learning about Him, and you have a certain understanding of who He is and what He does in this world. This morning, I would like to talk about both of these things, God’s sovereignty and our theology, through the lense of suffering.  We will do this from the story of Joseph found at the end of the book of Genesis.
In chapter three of The Story, we read about the life of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. We followed page after page through the ups and downs of his years. We followed him from the plots to the pit to Potiphar’s to the prison and finally to Pharaoh’s palace. After his brothers sold him, Joseph went from the lowest position in Egypt, as a slave, to the highest position in Egypt, as Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Before, his brothers lifted hand and foot to destroy him. In the end, no one lifted hand or foot in all of Egypt without Joseph’s word. Before, he was just a dreamer. Finally, he was the-real-thing. All along the way, he was learning. He was being shaped and molded to do what God would call him to do at a crucial time in Egypt and the surrounding areas.
Scripture Reading (pp. 39 & 42) – This is the Word of God

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh,

lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish

what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
It is a fact of life that if you live long enough, you will be made to endure suffering. If you are older, you already know this to be true. If you are younger and think that it will not come, it will. Suffering takes on many forms. It may come in the form of a disability or disease; in the form of financial hardship or hunger; in the form of racism or discrimination; in the form of marital conflict or family disputes; in the form of murder, envy, strife, deceit, violence, and so much more. Our question is always, “Why?” as if we don’t already know that we live in a fallen world. The earth does not function the way that God originally intended, the political, social, and religious systems of the planet are corrupt, Satan is causing as much chaos as possible, people do terrible things to one another, and we ourselves sin and continually fall short of the glory of God. All of this causes heartache, anxiety, and depression. All of this causes suffering in many forms.
God’s Sovereignty through the Lens of Suffering
We already said at the very beginning of this sermon that God is in control and that there is nothing outside of His authority and power. We are people who believe those statements. But, what do we do with the problem of evil and suffering in the world? This is an especially difficult question when we consider that the wicked often prosper while the godly struggle. What do we do with this? How to we handle it? How do we understand it? How do we explain it?
Well, the Bible repeatedly teaches that the godly do suffer and will suffer until the end of this age. Joseph was a godly man, even from his youth, yet he was made to suffer. Why would God allow this? Joseph understood why. He said it was to accomplish an even greater purpose. We often think that God should pluck people (us) our of situations that may be harmful. He is God, we are His people, He can do it – so, why not? Picture this: if God would have not allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, what else may have happened? He may have been murdered by his own brothers. Ok, what if God would have intervened and not allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery or to be murdered by his own brothers – would Joseph have escaped suffering the remainder of his life? The answer is no. There was still a famine to come, and Joseph would have suffered starvation like the rest of his family. We learn that he would have suffered either way.
Yet, God allowed (and was actually involved) the events of Joseph’s life to come about, even that difficult times of suffering. He did so to bring about a better thing. He did so in order to accomplish a greater purpose. Joseph was able to save his family, the land of Egypt, and all the surrounding areas from a great famine.
Our Theology through the Lens of Suffering

My assertion is that Joseph was able to suffer through all that he faced primarily because of his theology, that is, his understanding of God. Joseph must have been taught about the things of God as a little boy by his father, Jacob. Joseph himself had encounters with God that surely were significant in the shaping of his theology.
But what was Joseph’s theology? What was his understanding of God? I think that we can get a grasp of it from the verses we read earlier. If you notice the remarks he makes when everything is said and done, you realize that Joseph believed all along that God was at work in his life. You get the sense that Joseph believed in the power of God. What was it that he said?
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh,

lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish

what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph believed in the sovereignty of God. He believed in the promises and the covenant of God. Joseph believed that God was always in control, using the good, the bad, and the ugly to accomplish His purposes. Joseph believed that no matter what people may do, no matter what evil may exist, no matter his own personal sin, God would still do good to him because he loved God and was called according to God’s purpose. The same is true for you. The question is whether you believe it or not. And not only should you agree in your mind that this is all true, but you should live a life that reflects this great faith.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
In the Bible, you get the idea that Satan is always mad. Do you know why he is so angry all the time? Because every time he does some seemingly clever and damaging thing, God is still able to accomplish His own righteous purposes.
1) Despite human sin and evil, God is able to accomplish His purposes. When you are going through a financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual struggle – hang on knowing that God is able to continue to work in your life and situation. He will get you through it. He will accomplish a good work in you. In the meantime, be attentive to His word and constant in prayer.
2) I am persuaded that part of the reason Joseph was able to weather the storm, as it were, was because his theology was right. I would challenge you to get the big picture just like Joseph did. Don’t believe things just for the sake of believing things. Dig deep into the Scriptures and really think through the hard issues. God will bless you for your efforts, and He will use that effort to prepare you for the challenges that life may throw at you later.
3) God wants you to be faithful wherever you are and whatever you may be facing. If you are cruising through life at the moment without a care in the world, He wants you to be faithful. If you are struggling to make ends meet, He wants you to be faithful. If you are battling an addiction, He wants you to be faithful. If your health is failing, He wants you to be faithful. If you are struggling with __________ (you fill in the blank), He wants you to be faithful.