Sermon by Nnorom Azuonye
Today I urge you to trust the mysterious ways of God. As Christians, we mostly have things work out the way we have imagined them and prayed for them. We have to be honest with ourselves though, in our human thinking and understanding, we must admit that there are times things play out far off the mark from our expectations. These are when things go wrong, and foundations of our faith are shaken. At such times we cry out aloud;
‘God, why? Why now? Why me?’, or ‘God are you alive and this is happening to me?’
I have asked those questions so many times myself and when I do, the words of scripture that help me relax and know that I am questioning what I do not understand are from Isaiah 55:8-9:
“My thoughts,” says the LORD, “are not like yours,
and my ways are different from yours.
9 As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.”
In the passage we read today, Genesis 45: 3-15, we followed the story of Joseph in Egypt. He had become a very important and powerful man. Joseph was the Vizier, the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh – our modern equivalent of a Prime Minister. This is the same Joseph that his half-brothers sold into slavery in Egypt. They had soaked his clothes in the blood of an animal and led his father believe he was dead. His only brother from the same womb, Benjamin, was at home with their father, when this evil plan was executed, and this powerful man says these words to those who sold him:
“I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives. 6 This is only the second year of famine in the land; there will be five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor reaping. 7 God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. 8 So it was not really you who sent me here, but God. He has made me the king’s highest official. I am in charge of his whole country; I am the ruler of all Egypt.”
Wow! You have to be a person of spiritual maturity and unshakable faith in God to interpret a situation with such joy and gratitude to God. You also would have the Christ light shining through you to emerge at the end of a horrible experience and be so full of thanks to God and have no bitterness towards those who did bad things to you.
Joseph was the man wronged here. He was torn away from his family by jealous half-brothers and sold off, but he survived and found favour in the eyes of Pharaoh, he had armies at his disposal, and when famine hit Canaan, it was a perfect opportunity for him to hit back at those who did him wrong, but he did not, instead he drew them close, he forgave them, and provided for them.
Life is so full of things that go wrong and frustrate us, and our immediate response is anger, hard, offensive words, and fear, sometimes borne out of frustration.
Imagine a situation in which you are in a job you don’t really like, but it pays the bills, and this country is all about bills, right?. You stay in that job whilst trusting God to help you get something you really would like to do that can also pay the bills. You keep on in the meantime in that job you don’t like, while you search for your ideal job. Then a manager that does not like you complains about your work and forces you out of the job. You have no choice. You have to find another job. By God’s grace, not only do you find one, but it is the one you always wanted, the job you will not only enjoy doing, but one that will actually teach you something, give you name recognition and fortune. The Summer after you were forced out of the old job and you got the new one, you find yourself in an airport lobby with that manager that got you sacked. What would you say to him? How would you feel about him? Would you go to him and say, “hey mister, I am so glad that God used you to push me out of the company. If you had not pushed me out, my parachute would never have opened. I have been so blessed in my new role, and it is all because of you”.
Many times we only recognise God’s hand after the fact. You are rushing to the airport to catch a flight, and somebody bashes your taxi. Your journey is disrupted and you miss your flight. You are just complaining to somebody about this when you hear on the news that the plane you were going to catch had been highjacked by terrorists. Then you realise God allowed that incident with your taxi.
I don’t know what is going on in your individual lives.
– Perhaps you have been betrayed by somebody you always felt you could trust with your life and this is making you question everything you have always believed.
– Perhaps somebody you love has become desperately ill, you have prayed until you tongue hurts and you think God has forgotten you. You wonder if God is even hearing you or listening to you.
– You may have lost your home or your job, or your business is struggling.
Before you judge anyone or a group of people whose hands you can identify in what is happening to you, stop and ask, what is God trying to tell me? What is God trying to show me?
At times like these I pray that God teaches every one of us to say;
Father give me the grace to understand
that you know every second of my life
from the beginning of my life to the day of my death.
You have allowed this thing happen to me,
it is painful, but you are my Father
and you have me in your hand
I am confident that you have allowed this for a reason.
My gracious Father, you who preserved Jonah in the belly of the whale,
you who protected Daniel in the Lions’ Den,
it is the same you that saved Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego
from the hot tongues of fire,
don’t keep me guessing Lord,
show me the reason you have allowed me to fall into this situation.
Make me emerge from it stronger, wiser and stronger in my faith in you.
I wrote that prayer at a time of great trials and God really came through for me.
Friends. Trust God. Trust that He knows what He is doing. It will not always make sense to you. It may never make sense to you. It may be so turbulent that fear is beginning to take hold of you. Trust the Mysterious Ways of God – all he is doing will come together for good. Heed the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Mark 5:36 “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”
This sermon was first preached at Trinity Methodist Church, 265 Burrage Road, Plumstead, London SE18 7JW on Sunday 24th February 2019 | Sunday worship at Trinity is at 11:00am.