God’s Plan: Your Success – Genesis 39:2, 21

“The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master…But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love” (Genesis 39:2, 21, NLT).

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, often seemed to be a victim of his own success.

He was the favorite son of his father, Jacob, and so his brothers were jealous of him.

God chose him from among his eleven other brothers to be the salvation of Israel and gave him dreams and visions to confirm His promise.

But, when he told his brothers these dreams, they threw him in a dry well and then sold him into slavery.

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God’s Merit Badges – Job 36:15

“God rescues the afflicted by their affliction; He instructs them by their torment” (Job 36:15, HCSB).

In the story of Job, Elihu was the fourth and last to speak from among Job’s friends. Elihu was younger than the others and waited to speak, giving deference to the older men.

Though younger, Elihu believed he was speaking God’s truth in confronting Job, but he claimed neither human superiority nor inferiority to Job.

Elihu had listened carefully to Job’s claims of being pure and innocent and being unjustly oppressed by God.

And Elihu reminded Job that as a human being, he was not in a position to bring accusations against God, his Creator.

Elihu declared to Job that instead of being a sign of God’s unconcern as Job had supposed, affliction was a mark of God’s mercy, keeping one from the path of iniquity.

In other words, the very thing that afflicts you may also be what saves you.

God can use your affliction to rescue and restore you to Him and His will. Your affliction can spiritually develop you into a human being that is prepared for spending eternity with God!

Admittedly, affliction is not my first choice for spiritual growth. In fact, I like to avoid affliction as much as possible. So, I often recite from the Lord’s prayer the supplication that Jesus teaches us to pray for protection from affliction: “And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13, HCSB).

Indeed, our affliction may sometimes be one way that God deals with issues in our lives that could potentially cause us to be unfaithful. But this verse does not say that God afflicts us, but that He rescues and restores us through our affliction. (Remember, it was Satan that afflicted Job; it was Satan that tested Job, not God.)

Because affliction causes us to throw ourselves on God’s mercy!

That which causes my pain and suffering is also that which can restore me to intimacy with God.
     That which causes me to give up and quit is also that which empowers me to endure and persevere.

So what we perceive to be our problem is actually the solution to our problem!

In fact, our affliction may even prevent evil or temptation from overtaking or overcoming us: “Be careful that you do not turn to iniquity, for that is why you have been tested by affliction” (vs. 21).

When I was a boy, I joined the boy scouts. In scouting you earn merit badges for demonstrating a useful skill or a good behavior. By earning merit badges, a scout may advance in rank. Advancement in rank acknowledges the scout’s growing ability to serve others better.

Our afflictions are God’s merit badges. They are designed to empower us to become more obedient and productive as Jesus’s disciples.

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7, HCSB)

Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth – Hebrews 10:24-25

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The Hebrews writer exhorts us to stir up or provoke other Christians to conduct themselves with love and good works and not to neglect meeting or assembling together with other Christians (in church services, Sunday School, Bible studies, and/or prayer groups). Living by this code of conduct will help Christians strengthen one another’s faith so that they can persevere to the end of their life or to the coming day of Christ’s return and judgment, whichever comes first. This exhortation from the Hebrews writer provides some basic instructions we would be well-advised to follow before leaving Earth!

Who Is a True Christian? – Hebrews 3:14

“For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Whether you believe that Christians who are once saved are always saved or if you believe that Christians can fall away, the sober warning in this passage should be taken seriously by Christians of both views. Being a Christian means you have resolved to be faithful to God no matter what happens in your life—it is a lifetime resolution. When a Christian experiences the ups and downs of life and remains faithful to God, it builds a confidence and assurance that one does, in fact, share in the eternal life of Christ. Because being a Christian doesn’t always come easy, this verse provides a grave warning to everyone who claims to be saved to examine yourself carefully to be sure that you have the fortitude and resolve to persevere in your faith in Christ. Never mind trying to figure out who is a true believer and who is not; build up your own endurance because you belong to Christ if you hold fast your confidence to the end (vs. 5, 14).