Frank was a type A personality, he liked to do things efficiently and effectively and so he wasn’t much for being patient. He also didn’t have a long fuse when it came to negative conversations. In fact, patience and bad news seemed to be the epitome of wasteful. Why should he be patient, why should he wait for something to happen? And at the same time why should he read the negative stories in the newspaper or watch the 10 o’clock news, it wasn’t like he could change the outcome. When he got a call from his wife during a busy day at work, she talked slowly and didn’t seem very upbeat. Frank interrupted her and exhorted her to be brief and positive. After all, he didn’t have time. She paused for a moment and then cheerfully replied, “I discovered the airbags in our new BMW work great!” (Dr. Paul Chappell).
Sometimes, no matter how eager we are for good news and for action, there are periods of life where things come to a sudden and drastic stop. Where we get to discover the airbags of our new car, or cancer diagnosis puts our plans in a holding pattern, bankruptcy makes retirement a dream; grief guts us of any hope for the future. If you’ve been to the DMV on a busy day, you’ve probably experience the frustration of waiting. So far in our sermon series Dirty Jobs, we’ve looked at a few of the dirty jobs Joseph was required to perform in hopes of being a man of God in the midst of a world falling apart. Joseph’s story appears to continue declining series of starts and stops, once the favored son and the hated brother, he was thrown into a cistern and sold as a slave. In the house of Potiphar he excelled as a manager only to be caught up in a miscarriage of justice when his master’s wife claimed he “made sport of her” and now for all his faithfulness and all his willingness to honor God with his life, he is the newest resident of the Egyptian criminal justice system. Even though he has excelled once again behind bars, given greater responsibility—it is still being done behind bars.
If you struggle waiting, you’re not allow. I know a lot of you are baseball fans, some of you are die-hard Cubs fans, others are wise Cardinal fans, but the Wall-Street Journal did some analysis of America’s pastime and found a lot of time just passing by. In their study time begin innings racked up 42:41, time between pitches took up 1:14:49, and all in all, nearly 90% of the game is spent waiting. So baseball game a decree–hurry up!
How do we handle the Dirty Job of wrestling with waiting when we aren’t hanging out for a leisurely day at the ballpark? Although Joseph was in a family line chosen by God, with huge promises, he was left wrestling with waiting, waiting for freedom, waiting for justice. Joseph’s story behind bars gives us three insights into how to respond in Genesis 40:
(v. 1-4) Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. 2 Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
WAITING ON GOD OFFERS US A CHANCE TO BE FAITHFUL TO GOD:We get a contrast between faithfulness and faithlessness instantly. There is some ambiguity to the back story, but something has happened to cause the Pharaoh to question the allegiance and value of two of his closest servants: conspiracy or poor circumstances. Both the cupbearer and the chief baker were high ranking and intimate positions because they had the most access and opportunity to impact the Pharaoh’s life expectancy controlling what he ate or drank, poison or pure. Despite the intrigue over the new prisoners, for Joseph this is confirmation that the world is moving on without him. The most natural response might have been depression or pouting. Maybe you have felt it watching on Facebook friends get a new job when you feel stuck in your regular 9-5, you hear about new babies and next chapters when your story seems destined to consist of a cereal box.
Drawing inward when we feel slighted, when our dreams have dissipated might feel natural, but despite everything we get the three word response about Joseph: he attended them. He served faithfully!
Joseph kept faithfully plodding along, even when it felt trivial, or uneventful he embraced the words of Ecclesiastes 9:10—Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might… And we want to protest, “But God this is below my calling to clean a bathroom, but God this is below me to serve in the nursery, but God this is below me to meet with a guest.” WE can sometimes waste away waiting for something that we feel is worthy of our time and talents, and miss out on the process of becoming refined for something greater. Author and psychologist Larry Crabb shared in his book PRESSURE’S OFF about an early childhood experience: “One Saturday afternoon, I decided I was a big boy and could use the bathroom without anyone’s help. So I climbed the stairs, closed and locked the door behind me, and for the next few minutes felt very self-sufficient. Then it was time to leave. I couldn’t unlock the door. I tried every ounce of my three-year-old strength, but I couldn’t do it. I panicked. I felt again like a very little boy as the thought went through my head, ‘I might spend the rest of my life in this bathroom.’ My parents, and likely the neighbors, heard my desperate scream. ‘Are you okay?’ Mother shouted through the door she couldn’t open from the outside. ‘Did you fall? Have you hit your head?’ ‘I can’t unlock the door!’ I yelled. ‘Get me out of here!’
I wasn’t aware of it right then, but Dad raced down the stairs, ran to the garage to find the ladder, hauled it off the hooks, and leaned it against the side of the house just beneath the bathroom window. With adult strength, he pried the bathroom window open and climbed into my prison, walked past me and, with that same strength, turned the lock and opened the door.
His dad was working, when he was unaware. Why should we be faithful? Psalm 37:9 gives us the answer: Look at what is happening, one thing that we cannot experience and another that we will experience: For evil men will be cut off, but those who wait (hope in) on the LORD will inherit the land. God calls us to be faithful in what we can see, as he works faithfully in what we can’t see. President Woodrow Wilson once said, “All things come to him who waits—provided he knows what he is waiting for,” we would be wise to add, “as long as we know who we are waiting for.”Staying the course only makes sense if you are following in a sensible direction. I can’t help but think of Noah—called on God to be faithful for a crazy calling—build a ship in the desert, and yet it is only crazy until it becomes critical. Waiting is absolutely a waste if you are sitting on the couch, just watching Judge Judy, but it is wise if you are prayerfully waiting on the LORD. Where is God got you in a season of being changed internally before radically changing the external? Maybe you done what I’d done in seasons of life, pushed away with a plan or program in rashness, and then guess what…I still had to go to the LORD, but instead of in thanksgiving for him letting me be part of His plan, I had to plead with him to help clean up my mess!