Sermons of David Chadwell

Land of Bondage or Opportunity?

What makes physical life a land of bondage to some and a land of opportunity to others?

For some life is always a land of bondage. In all circumstances, all they ever see is trouble. Nothing ever works for their advantage. All blessings turn to bitterness. Even with good health, a good family, trustworthy friends, a secure job, and a good home, life is still bleak and oppressive.

Yet, others find life to be ceaseless opportunity. The greater their adversities are, the greater their opportunities are. Poor health liberates their personality. Hardships are stepping stones to a fuller life. Trials are a ladder to a higher plain of living. Every adversity that comes their way results in a blessing to them.

You know what I am saying is true. You have observed it too often. If a person for whom life is bondage and a person for whom life is opportunity are placed in the same circumstances, the first would still be in bondage and the second would still see opportunity. If the circumstances were excellent, it would be the same. If the circumstances were horrible, it would be the same.

Why? Why is that true? It is not merely external conditions that produce our outlook on life. Internal outlooks are just as important. Quite often, what we are within ourselves chain us to bondage or liberate us to see opportunity. That is why the Christian's greatest concern in life must not be focused on changing external conditions. It must be focused on developing the inner person into a genuine person of God.

Examine the life of a person who was physically sold into slavery but never lived in bondage. His name is Joseph, and I challenge you to think about him in a manner that maybe you never thought about him before.

  1. Consider how Joseph turned his land of bondage into his land of opportunity.
    1. Begin with a look at his early life.
      1. His father was Jacob and his mother Rachel.
        1. Joseph was the oldest son born to Rachel, and one of only two sons Rachel gave birth to.
        2. Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife, in fact she was likely the only wife he wanted.
        3. As a result of Rachel being Jacob's favorite wife, Joseph was his favorite child among all his thirteen children.
      2. Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph in striking ways.
        1. Joseph did not work in the fields with the flocks as did his brothers.
        2. His father also gave him a special garment to wear to symbolize his special love for Joseph.
      3. Joseph also had two dreams that implied his family members would some day bow before him.
      4. I think we are justified in drawing some conclusions about Joseph's life at this point.
        1. As a teenager, he seems to have been spoiled by the special treatment his father showed him.
        2. That special treatment from the father resulted in his brothers resenting him as they harbored feelings of jealousy.
        3. Joseph's dreams and his handling of those dreams did nothing to improve his relationship with his brothers.
      5. It comes as no surprise when his brothers vent their resentment and jealousy.
        1. Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers as they tended the flocks.
        2. Joseph had difficulty locating his brothers.
        3. When, finally, the bothers saw him coming, they plotted his death.
          1. They said, "Here comes the dreamer! Let's kill him, thrown him into a pit, say a wild animal ate him, and see what becomes of his dreams!"
          2. Only Reuben prevented the others from killing Joseph by convincing them to put him alive into a pit.
          3. Reuben intended to later release him and return him to Jacob.
        4. Soon, when Reuben was gone, the brothers saw a caravan of traders [Ishmaelites] on the way to Egypt.
          1. Greed became stronger than hate.
          2. Judah suggested there was not profit in killing Joseph--they should sell him as a slave.
          3. The others agreed [in Reuben's absence], drew Joseph out of the pit, and sold him into slavery.
        5. When Reuben returned, he was overcome with remorse!
          1. To hide their act, they took Joseph's special garment, soaked it in goat blood, and returned it to their father with the report that Joseph was killed by a wild animal.
          2. Like most of us, the sons never considered the effect of their act on their father.
          3. His sorrow created an impression they vividly remembered years later.
    2. From the incident at the pit, Joseph's life encountered one hardship after another.
      1. Consider his life under Potiphar.
        1. When Joseph arrived in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard.
          1. Joseph had grown up as a rich man's son.
          2. He had grown up as the favored son of the rich man.
          3. He knew what to do and how to act as a slave in a prosperous household.
          4. Yet, can you imagine the adjustment involved in falling from the status of a rich man's son to the status of a slave?
        2. To Potiphar Joseph proved himself to be responsible, resourceful, and trustworthy.
          1. Joseph prospered in all he did.
          2. He prospered to the extent that Potiphar put Joseph in charge of everything.
          3. Potiphar did not even know what he owned!
        3. Just as the situation looked hopeful, Potiphar's wife was attracted to Joseph and began an continual effort to seduce him.
          1. Joseph resisted her advances for two reasons.
            a) He could not abuse Potiphar in that manner.
            b) He could not sin against God.
        4. She persisted until one day she found him alone in the house.
          1. When he resisted her advances, she took hold of his robe in an attempt to force him.
          2. He left the robe in her hand and fled.
          3. Angered by his rejection, she screamed and told the other servants Joseph attempted to rape her.
          4. She reported the same story to her husband that evening.
          5. In anger, Potiphar had Joseph placed in the royal prison.
        5. Can you imagine Joseph's sense of hurt and disappointment for being punished for something he refused to do?
      2. Consider Joseph's life in prison.
        1. There he demonstrated the same resourcefulness and trustworthiness.
          1. All he did went well.
          2. Soon he was in charge of all the prisoners.
        2. Later Pharaoh became upset with his baker and butler and had them placed in the royal prison.
          1. They came under Joseph's care.
          2. One day he noted both looked especially sad.
          3. Joseph discovered they were troubled by dreams they could not interpret.
          4. Joseph interpreted their dreams with only the request that he be remembered.
        3. When the butler was restored to his position, he forgot about Joseph.
    3. Here we need to make two observations.
      1. We do Joseph a real injustice if we do not appreciate the spiritual values and principles instilled in his life as a child.
        1. He may have been spoiled.
        2. However, his understanding of God was not neglected.
      2. It amazes me given his early background that Joseph could and did react to adversity the way he did.
        1. His understanding of God preserved him.
    4. Think about some alternate reactions to his adversities Joseph could have had.
      1. When he woke up in Egypt as a slave, he could have said:
        1. "Life had dealt me a horrible injustice!"
        2. "I had it all--a future, power, certain prosperity, and happiness!"
        3. "Now I have nothing--and there is no chance my father will find me or that I will escape."
        4. "There is little benefit I can derive from this awful situation--I will still be a slave no matter what happens."
        5. "I will just get by--Potiphar may own me, but he will soon learn he did not get much for his money!"
      2. When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, he could have thought:
        1. "My parents did not know how wrong they were--thoughts about God are pure nonsense!"
        2. "My problems are only going to increase!"
        3. "The odds of my marrying as a slave are not good."
        4. "Since I am a slave, I better grab what pleasure I can get when I can get it."
        5. "It is time for me to find some pleasure."
        6. "Sure, I trusted God--but where did that get me?"
        7. "Sure, my parents taught me the ways of God--but now I am in the real world and must be realistic."
        8. "Potiphar will never know the difference!"
      3. When he was in prison he could have reasoned:
        1. "The dignity of man, the rewards of integrity, the principles of honor--what a laugh!"
        2. "Where was dignity when my brothers sold me?"
        3. "Where was integrity when I did 'the right thing' in refusing the advances of Potiphar's wife?"
        4. "Where was honor after I interpreted the dreams?"
        5. "People use people--kindness given is kindness forgotten!"
        6. "The only real philosophy is 'look out for yourself.'"
      4. If at any time Joseph embraced these views, he would have been a man of bondage in a land of bondage.
    5. The inner man, the real person Joseph was, used his trials as steps on the ladder of triumph.
      1. Because he refused to "get by," because he was a man of honor who accepted personal responsibility, because he refused to forget God, because he maintained concern for people, Egypt became his land of opportunity.
      2. When Pharaoh had a dream that defied interpretation, the butler remembered Joseph.
      3. Because Joseph was sustained by his faith and godly character, things happened in Egypt that would never have happened in Palestine.
        1. He ascended to the position of the second most powerful man in the world.
        2. He delivered that world's greatest nation from famine and ruin.
        3. He delivered his own family from starvation.
        4. He united his family in peace.

  2. Very few of you will live a life that does not have tragic moments.
    1. If you knew what would take place in your life before you died, you likely would waste today by worrying about the future.
      1. A lot of people you care about will die before you do.
      2. Your marriage will know downs as well as ups.
      3. There will be times when your children will break your heart.
      4. You will move to places you do not wish to live.
      5. Your life will be an economic roller coaster.
      6. You will live with the consequences of some bad decisions.
      7. And all of that will occur if you are blessed to live in a time of peace.
    2. Each of us must know the true issue confronting us.
      1. The true issue confronting us is not who we are when everything is going well.
      2. The true issue confronting us is who are we when nothing is going well.

Every day of life, there is a lot you can do to help yourself, and a lot you can do to hinder yourself. For Joseph, Egypt was never a land of bondage. It was always his land of opportunity. His faith in God and strength of godly character sustained him. May our faith in God and strength of godly character sustain us in a world hostile to God. May faith in God and godly character determine who we are rather than adversity determining who we are.

May every stage of our lives be our land of opportunity. May we understand that Christian faith, Christian living, and godly principles are never nonsense even in times of adversity.

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