Transformed by Trouble
Pastor KC Liu / Romans 8:28 / Feb 28, 2016
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Good Morning! How are you all doing? Today’s message is titled, “Transformed by Trouble”, taken from Romans 8:28. You can go ahead and take out your bibles and turn to Romans 8:28. As you turn, let me make a brief announcement about OC Prayer Rally.
It’s on Saturday, March 5, a small prayer gathering at the SOP office. The purpose is to equip you to pray, to cultivate a prayer life. It is already to prepare all of us to partake in the 'Call Azusa Now', on Saturday April 9, a historical prayer gathering of 100K people that will shift the spiritual atmosphere of LA and southern California. God is doing something big, and we have to learn how to catch the wave of God. Don’t let it pass us by. The SOP office is only 7 minutes from here, very close. If you need a ride, please let Herald and Elaine know, and they can arrange rides for you. Even if you come for part time, it’s alright. There’s a childcare room for your kids to watch the SOP kids worship DVD.
As I was praying for what to speak on, the Lord put it on my heart to address the battles that you are fighting in your life right now. Some of us have trouble in our relationships at home, some at school, some in the workplace, even some at church, especially if we don’t see eye-to-eye in certain ministries. Others have trouble in their marriage, or trouble with their kids. Everyone is battling something. So today, I believe the Lord wants to impart hope and peace to you.
You may have noticed that I took the title for this sermon, “Transformed by Trouble” out of the Purpose Driven Life book, Chapter 25. I am glad that I can synchronize the topic of our sermon with our reading this week.
Let’s ready our scripture for today. First the boys, then the girls. Let’s see who is awake this morning : “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
First, let me quickly review just 3 things that Pastor Rick said about troubles in our lives. First, he said that God has a purpose behind every problem. No matter how bad the problem in your life seems to be, God has a purpose. Even when you don’t see the purpose, the purpose is still there. Just like when there is a rainy day, and you get beat by the rain, and you can’t see the sun. But you know that the sun is just above the dark clouds. And the dark clouds are not going to be there forever. You don’t feel the sun, but you know the Sun is there. And you know that the dark clouds will not be there forever. They will eventually go away.
Second, God uses troubling circumstances to develop our character. When you pray, “God, please give me more patience”, does God just give you more patience? Or does God bring someone into your life to test your patience? Perhaps God brought someone into your life to be your sandpaper. To smooth out your rough edges.
Next, Pastor Rick says that God uses problems to draw you closer to himself. The Bible says that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”
“Your most profound and intimate experiences of worship will likely be in your darkest days – when your heart is broken, when you feel abandoned, when you’re out of options, when the pain is great – and you turn to God alone. It is during suffering that we learn to pray our most authentic, heartfelt, honest-to-God prayers. When we’re in pain, we don’t have the energy for superficial prayers.”
Again, Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” There is a true story in the Old Testament that illustrates Romans 8:28 perfectly. It’s one of my favorites, 'The story of Joseph and His Brothers.'
In Genesis 37, there was a Father, Jacob, who had 12 sons. His youngest son was Joseph, and Jacob loved him the most. His brothers hated him because father loved Joseph more than them, and it was very obvious. When Joseph was 17 years old, he had a dream. He dreamed that he rose to greatness, and all brothers and parents were bowing down to him. I don’t know about you, but if I had that dream, I’d keep it to myself.
How would you feel if your little sibling told you that you are going to bow down to them? Probably very upset! Well, his 11 brothers got so upset they almost killed him. They ended up throwing him in a pit, then decided to sell him to the Ishmaelites for 20 shekels of silver. Talk about a dysfunctional family! Talk about injustice and unfair treatment!
Joseph gets taken as a slave to Egypt, a foreign land, and he was forced to serve his Master named Potiphar. At this point, Joseph could have been very bitter about his family situation. His heart could have filled with hatred toward his brothers. But he wasn’t. Instead of becoming bitter, he chose to become better. He allowed the circumstance to shape his character. How do I know that?
Genesis 39:3 says, “his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did.” You see, even a non-believer saw the close relationship Joseph had with God. That proves that Joseph didn’t give up on God because of injustice upon his life.
Potiphar liked Joseph so much he made Joseph his general manager. Joseph was a blessing wherever he went. Not only did Potiphar like him, apparently his wife had the hots for Joseph too. So much so that she seduced him many times to sleep with her. Joseph was a man of integrity and refused. In the end, the wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape. Potiphar got so angry that he threw Joseph into prison! Imagine what Joseph is thinking at this point. “What! What is going on God?! You are throwing me into the pits again??!!”
Now this is the second time Joseph experiences great injustice. Now the choice is set before him again: will he become bitter of his circumstances? Or will he become better and allow the circumstances to shape his character?
So what happened? Joseph chose to be better and allowed God to transform his character. Genesis 39:21 says, “The Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and God gave Joseph favor in the sight of the prison guards.” Again, Joseph became a manager in the prison.
Later on, Pharaoh's baker and butler got thrown into prison. Both of them had dreams they didn’t understand. Joseph helped both of them interpret their dreams and it both came true. Joseph told the Butler that when he gets out of prison, please mention him to Pharaoh and get him out of prison too. But the Butler totally forgot about him. And Joseph remained in prison.
Imagine Joseph waiting to be released. Days go by, weeks go by, months go by, and years go by. Nothing. His hope of getting released slowly faded. It would have been easy for him to let his faith in God fade away too. But He didn’t. He trusted that God had a purpose behind every problem. He couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but He kept trusting in God.
Two years later, Pharaoh had two dreams that he didn’t understand. And none of his magicians could interpret the dream. Then the forgetful Butler finally remembered Joseph, the dream interpreter, and told Pharaoh about him. Joseph ended up interpreting Pharaoh's dream which meant that Egypt will have 7 years of great harvest, and followed by 7 years of famine. Pharaoh saw that God’s presence and God’s wisdom was with Joseph, and appointed him as Vice-President over all of Egypt.
Long story short, Joseph rises to great Power and governed Egypt in a way that saved many nations from starvation and death. God’s purpose was to use Joseph to save the nations! Did Joseph ever lose sight of God because of his rise to power? Now that he was the second most powerful man in the world, did he forget God?
The answer is found in Genesis 41:51-52:
"Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” – Gen 41:51-52
The Hebrews have a great tradition in naming their children. Whatever the circumstances they were in, that is what the parents would name their children. So Joseph’s father, Jacob, had a twin brother named Esau. During birth, Esau came out first, but Jacob used his tiny hands and grabbed Esau. So their parents thought that was really cute and named him “Heel Grabber”, that’s exactly what Jacob means.
Here Joseph names his two boys Manasseh and Ephraim, and we can see his heart condition from here. Does their name mean, “Sons of slaves”? Or “My life sucks?” No! Manasseh means: God has made me forget all my trouble. Joseph didn’t blame God for his troubles. Joseph credited God for helping him forget all his troubles. Epharim means: God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering. Joseph wasn’t in denial of his suffering. He fully acknowledged it. But despite of his suffering, he thanked God for making him fruitful.
The famine didn’t just affect the Egyptians, it affected the Hebrews as well, and Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. And it just so happens that these brothers came at the feet of Joseph and begged to buy grain. The brothers didn’t recognize Joseph. At this point, what would you do if you were Joseph? What would you do with the your own blood family who despised you, hated you, plotted to kill you, and then sold you as a slave and abandoned you??
If you were Joseph, what would you do? Perhaps some of us would have demanded justice. Perhaps some of us, if we were in Joseph’s shoes, would demand an eye for an eye. Could he have said, “You sold me into slavery, now its time for you to taste your own medicine. It’s time for you to reap what you sow. Guards, arrest these men for attempted murder, human trafficking, and bearing false witness. Give them what our law requires for people who break these laws. 20 years in prison for each of them.” Let me ask you, if that was Joseph’s response, would it be fair of him? Or would we see him as a bad guy?
Legally speaking, it would be perfectly fair and just if Joseph came down with that verdict and judged them guilty. Because it was true. The brothers did commit the crime. Joseph suffered from the age of 17-30, spent his best years in prison and as a slave. 13 years without being with his mom and dad, 13 years robbed from him, all because of his horrible brothers. He could have demanded justice, and he would be justified for doing so.
However, we all know the story; Joseph didn’t choose that path of demanding justice. He chose mercy. He chose to forgive. The Bible says “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:13)
It was not easy for Joseph; seeing his brothers brought back a lot of painful memories. Joseph cried and wept so loud that his servants who stood outside the palace overheard him crying.
After he cried, (Genesis 45:4) Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt. But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives…” You see, Joseph trusted that God had a higher purpose for him. He saw the Purpose behind his problem, firmly believing that it was God who sent him, not his brothers! It is God who is in complete control over the situation, not the brothers.
For some of you, you need to know in your heart that God is in complete control over the troubling situation in your life. He has a purpose for your troubles. God wants you to make a choice. You can either let the circumstances drag you down and become bitter, or you can allow God to use your current crisis to make you better. What will it be?
Now we’ve come full circle back to Paul’s letter to the Romans. The context of Romans chapter 8 is that Paul is addressing both Jews and Gentiles who are going through suffering. They’ve been mistreated, misunderstood, marginalized, even persecuted. And Paul is offering them a comforting word, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
But also notice that this promise of God is not automatic. It doesn’t say that all things will work out for the good, no matter what you chose to do. It says that it will work out for those who love him. To love God is to trust in God. Joseph trusted God. But for those who do not love God or trust in God, this promise is not available for you. But the good news today is this, you can choose to place your trust in God right here, right now. I know you may not feel like you can trust, it really doesn’t matter. Feelings don’t dictate your life, choices do. You may not feel like forgiving, its okay, you can choose to forgive. You may not feel like being merciful, its okay, you can choose to be merciful. It’s time to let go of whatever you are clinging on to. It’s time to let God take over.
Are you ready to do that? I am going to pray a prayer of impartation. I am going to ask for God’s hope and peace to be released into your life.
If you want to receive that, open up your hands to God like you are receiving something. Show God that you want to trust and love him, even in your troubles and problems. I believe God will transform you in this process.
“Father God, I thank you for your promises. I thank you that you work for the good of those who love you. We love you Lord. For some of us who are battling unbelief and have trust issues with you, please forgive us. Help us to draw near to you. I pray for those in our congregation who are going through some tough circumstances right now. I pray that you will release hope and peace from above. Release it now Lord. Let hope and peace saturate every heart. Thank you God. Amen.”