January 31, 2015

Purpose in life? It is not complaining!

We stopped for fuel in a tiny roadside town with a population of less than a few dozen. While I could not imagine spending my whole life in that place, I have to think that God puts people where He wants them, each with a purpose for being there.

Joseph wound up in Egypt for a purpose. His brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery. When he rescued them from famine, they were terrified, but he reassured them. Then, when their father died, they were afraid again, but Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19–21)

That was an important purpose. Jesus would be born through the line of Judah, so this brother could not die in a famine. By the grace of God and the obedience of Joseph, all were saved.

Later, the people in the lineage of Jesus would have to be saved again, this time from the Egyptians. After Joseph died, another Pharaoh came along and was not so favorable to God’s people. They would need to escape, but before that happened, Joseph told them that it would . . .

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” (Genesis 50:22–24)

Joseph is one of the people I look forward to meeting in heaven. He was wise and trusted God to take care of him and his family. Solomon was another wise man, perhaps with a few more foibles than most, but he did offer many words of wisdom in his proverbs and also Ecclesiastes. I particularly like the ending of this book . . .

The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:11–14)

Much study is a weariness of the flesh! No kidding. I am tired of reading, tired of hearing long theological arguments that have little to do with practical life situations, and tired of trying to remember the meaning of words like fallibilism and fideism. It’s been a long day/week/month of reading, taking notes, and listening to lectures. Even the professor giving the lectures admits that some of this is tedious.

On good days, I’m thrilled with all that I’m learning, but today is not one of those. So God, in His way of knowing what to say to me and when to say it, gives me these verses in my final devotional reading . . .

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1–4)

The sins I struggle with today are procrastination, being unthankful, skepticism, laziness, complaining, and just plain grumpiness. God shakes His head at me. What I’m called to do is nothing like the tasks He gave Joseph, and nothing like the challenges He gave Solomon, and a pittance compared to the mission of Jesus Christ. I need to confess all this, stop complaining, and be thankful, and then joyfully get back to work.

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