Thursday 4 August 2022

A Relationship with God



 The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did. This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned. From the day Joseph was put in charge of his master’s household and property, the Lord began to bless Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except what kind of food to eat! Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man 

                                                                                                            Genesis 39:2-6 NLT 


In a recent conversation with another minister, we talked about the churches, how they are today and what is actually going on and what is being preached in those churches. It’s an important question because any church congregation on a Sunday should hear something from the preaching of the word, that is at least inspiring and meaningful to them. The preached sermon in ethical terms, should offer encouraging words for day to day living and the message of that sermon has surely got to be of some spiritual value. In other words, a sermon has got to have direct relevance to the lives of its listeners. 

Therefore, what I’m preaching today must have some direct relevance to your life too! It’s not just my job to attempt to present some information to you or to say something interesting, though I suppose that wouldn’t be a bad thing. The question is, how important is that preaching within the context, for example of a Sunday service? Well, the truth is that the preaching is the most important part of the Sunday service. It says so in the Bible. Real preaching is about speaking for God. In his letter to the Romans, St Paul said that faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ. Faith comes from hearing and that’s how important preaching is. Preaching should awaken faith; it should inspire faith and it should encourage faith. 

 And faith is essential, it’s what’s actually required of you, it’s essential to your own personal ministry? Yes, that’s right, your own personal ministry. As followers of Jesus, we all have a ministry. So, the next question is, does your faith make a difference outside of this chapel, does your faith make a difference in the outside world amongst other people, even amongst unbelievers? Does your faith make a difference? Because you and I, all of us, we who are gathered here today, need to know- and this is the message for today- we need to know- that we do have to make that difference. Because we are judged are we not? - Not so much by what we say we are, but rather by what else we say and ultimately what we do. If we profess to have a faith and it doesn’t make a difference either to us or to anyone else, then the truth is we really don’t have a faith and it would all be pointless. 


We might not think that the conditions are always favourable to us, in the world, this outside world that I’m talking about, the conditions are not always favourable towards our acting out our highest Christian ideals, our love of God and loving our neighbour as we love ourselves. It’s not always easy. It’s not easy because we have to deal with what they call ‘the nitty gritty of life’, the nitty gritty of life, the adversity of it all and the unexpected problems that always seem to pop up. When things seem always to be going against us, when it's difficult to make headway. And when our intentions are misunderstood, when the world seems to be against us, and when we make our own mistakes as well. So, in line with this knowledge that life doesn’t run smooth, it throws up challenges and problems all the time, in line with all of this and more, I’ll mention an adage that no doubt you will have heard, an adage that has been described as ‘a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can-do attitude in the face of adversity, discouragement, setbacks and misfortune’. It reads like this: 

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

The explanation being that, ‘Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life; making lemonade is turning them into something positive or desirable.’ 

But being positive, or staying positive is one of these popular virtues we are always being told about. I mean to say, we would always prefer the company of someone who has a positive attitude rather than a negative one. Who wants to listen to someone who is always whinging? We know from experience that negative people are physically and spiritually sapping. At the same time, I think it’s not always possible to put a positive spin on a negative situation. Sometimes it’s best just to say nothing. Sometimes we just have to accept things the way they are or just the way that things have panned out. Sometimes we just have to remember to live in faith and put our trust in God. 

 You’ll remember that story in the book of Genesis, Joseph and his coat of many colours, Joseph, who when he was about 17 years of age was stripped of his special coat, made for him by his father, Jacob, and then he was sold into slavery by his jealous and hostile brothers. Later, he was resold as a slave again, in Egypt. How bad can that be, how bad can that be to be sold into slavery by your own kith and kin, sold into slavery by your own brothers? How rejecting and how painful that experience must have been! That’s not something that can be easily forgotten! But there was a man named Potiphar, who bought Joseph as a slave and he soon recognised that there was something about Joseph, something different and we know that because the Bible tells us that the Lord blessed Potiphar’s house for Joseph’s sake. 

And then when Joseph found himself unjustly imprisoned even the keeper of the prison in Egypt saw that there was something godly about Joseph, the Lord was with him and so the jailer treated him accordingly and treated him well. Eventually Joseph rose to become second only to Pharaoh in command in Egypt. Why should that be? Because the Lord was with him, it’s as simple as that. Joseph had a relationship with God. You know that none of us will probably ever rise to high office as Joseph did, but that’s not the point, is it? I mean even as a slave in prison, in what should have been another low point in his life, Joseph’s relationship with God still made a difference. Joseph didn’t achieve anything by making positive affirmations about changing lemons into lemonade or whatever the Hebrew or Egyptian equivalent would have been. He achieved through the grace of God because God was with him, because he had a relationship with God. 

And therefore, I say to you, that your ministry too, is about your relationship with God, it’s about your prayer life, it’s about your faith, it’s not about trying to look good, or by pretending that bad things don’t happen, but it is about holding on to your faith and by allowing that inner light of yours to shine so that as Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount ‘let your light shine before others so that they may see you and praise your Father who is in heaven.’ What we must do, you see, is to live only to the glory of God. That’s the Christian goal, to live our lives to the glory of God. ‘Take up your cross and follow me,’ said Jesus. We have to put God first! And our lives before God need to be lived with some humility and some self-examination, we never know at any given time what God has got planned for us. It’s about submission, it’s about trust and faith, putting our hand in his and walking with him and as I’ve said, it is about humility and self-examination, so, I would just like to close with these words from the 139th Psalm: 

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.