Monday, January 28, 2013

Bloom Where You are Planted

What do you do when the game of life throws you a card (or a hand) you wish you hadn't been dealt?  When the cards of disappointment, the unexpected, the unknown, or the unfair have been dealt to you, you must remember that the Hand you are in will always be His. ("I will  hold you always in the palm of My hand." Isaiah 41:13)  I am learning that while being held by Him, even in times of adversity, I am faced with a choice in how I decide to respond and play this hand out.  That choice will carve the path and determine the level of effectiveness and fruitfulness in my life.

1.) I can stand firm, dig my heels into the ground in resistance, and fall into a pit of worry, anger, self-pity or despair. (A lose-lose.)  OR
2.) I can stand firm, fall to my knees in surrender, and bloom where I am planted. (A win-win.)

I've been a slow learner over the course of my life.  Often times slipping into the losing choice of option 1, allowing that to be my default, before pulling myself together and opting for victory in choice 2.  God's teaching me the better of the two, to be a Mary in a Martha world, choosing Him first and foremost with each and every hand in life I've been given.  To let victory become my default.  I'm coming around.  As long as my heart is teachable, there will always be room for Him to do His work.  Previously I've written about finding victory in the sweet surrender of letting go, and by taking control of one's thought life.  Today I write about a third key to walking in victory:

Allowing yourself to bloom where you are planted.  

Let's take a look at how to do so...

A great place to learn of such things is in Genesis chapters 37-47, displayed in the life of Joseph. I recently listened to a message of this familiar Bible story (which spurred me on to look at several other messages, and re-read these scriptures myself). This story resonated with me and inspired me in several ways.  If you want an example of someone who understood the hard-knocks of life, you need not look any further than Joseph.  What's different about this man though, is how he chose to respond to these afflictions and struggles.  Even though hated, despised, rejected, sold into slavery, tempted, betrayed, victimized, falsely accused, imprisoned, forgotten, estranged from his family, his land, and the only life he had known, God caused Him to be effective, significant, successful, and to bear much fruit in the midst of his affliction.  Throughout these chapters of the Bible, you see countless examples of the ways Joseph rose above his circumstances.  I think the following principles will help us to do the same today.
  • Recognize God's Presence always (Acknowledge and look for evidences of God)
  • Recognize my Response to life around me (Choose the ways of God and give Him glory) 
  • Recognize God's Sovereignty in everything (Trust God)
In the recent message I heard, Genesis 41:52 was the highlighted verse in this story.  It brings new meaning to me.  Joseph, after he had endured such hardship and injustice, named his second son Ephraim and said, "It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."  (other Bible translations interchange the word suffering for "afflictions, sorrow, misfortunes, poverty or misery.")

In the midst of our seemingly "misdealt" hand in life, when we find ourselves in waiting or unanswered prayers, or when we've run into even a minor stumbling block that is swaying us off course, we can have this too.  Fruitfulness and effectiveness in the land of our suffering.  And here's how.

In several verses covering these chapters, there is reference to God's presence with Joseph.

"The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered..." Genesis 39:2

"But while Joseph was there in prison, the LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden."  Genesis 39:20-21

"...the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did." Genesis 39:23

Joseph knew that the LORD was with him in his affliction.  He trusted God and as a result, God caused him to prosper and gave him success.  Not only did Joseph recognize God's presence with him,  those Joseph encountered also saw and acknowledged that the LORD was with him.  Others could see the work and evidence of God in his life and he won favor because of it.

"When his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant." Genesis 39:3-4

"So Pharaoh asked them, 'Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?'"  Genesis 41:38

"Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you.  You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.  Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."  Genesis 41:39-40 

If anyone had the right to feel abandoned, unheard, and that God was far away, it was Joseph.  Yet he chose to believe that God was with him; he remained faithful and hardworking. Despite his circumstances and humble positioning, he did not give up or give into despair.  He gave God his best, and kept his eyes on the LORD.

Luke 16:10 says, "Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is unrighteous in very little is also unrighteous in much."

Proverbs 3:3-4 states, "Let love and faithfulness never leave you.  Bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and men."

And Colossians 3:23 reads, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men."

I believe Joseph did all of these things, and it was rewarded and credited to him as righteousness.  He began this journey as nothing but a slave, but gained favor and success in each position he was placed in until he became second in command over all the land.  Such success would require both God's favor and a humble and faithful perseverance.

As well as trusting in God's presence, Joseph also found ways to turn his attention to God and give Him glory.  While imprisoned, God gave Joseph the ability to interpret dreams.  Joseph could have responded by boasting in his ability without acknowledging God, and use it for his own gain. But he chose not to...He openly credited God and gave Him all the glory.

"Then Joseph said to them, 'Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.'" Genesis 40:8.

And in Genesis 41:25, "God has revealed to Pharaoh what He is about to do..."

And again in Genesis 41:28, "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do."

Even in his suffering He chose the ways of the LORD, believed in the work God was doing in his circumstances, and boldly told others about it.

Despite the years of suffering and affliction Joseph experienced, He affirmed that God was still sovereign.

In Genesis chapter 45, Joseph says to his brothers, "And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you (v5)...But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance"(v7). 

" the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters."  1 Timothy 6:15 

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

"One God the Father who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:6

Joseph is a great example to all of us that God can bring us success and cause us to be effective in the midst of our struggle.  We don't have to wait for an answer or complete deliverance beforehand.  Redemption came at the end of this story when Joseph was finally reunited with his family.  Yet, God caused him to be fruitful long before this beautiful restoration took place.  He can do this for us too. Often times, it's in our most painful experiences that we end up producing the most fragrant fruit.  This message has challenged me to seek fruitfulness in the midst of my circumstances.  To keep my eyes open to the evidences and works of God all around me.  To fully trust Him and His purposes even when the hand I'm holding frowns upon me.  And to choose to obediently follow Him and walk in His ways.  Making Him known to others, and giving Him all the glory.  Expecting that in this, I will flourish, bear fruit, walk in victory despite adversity, and bloom where I am planted.

Choose to bloom with me.

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